Stressful situations in life are unavoidable, and it is common to feel stressed at times. More than 3 out of 4 adults experience stress-related health effects. Stress is a bodily response to certain life circumstances, resulting in physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. This differs from anxiety, a reaction to something a person perceives as threatening or dangerous.
Overwhelming as it may feel, reducing and preventing stress with stress management practices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, spending time in nature, and talking with friends is possible.
Learn why stress management is essential and the skills you can build to combat acute or chronic stress.
Table of Contents
Why Stress Management Is Important
When left unaddressed, stress can lead to adverse health effects and negatively impact your overall quality of life. Stress management is crucial because it can affect your relationships, career, and other areas of your life.
Stress can adversely affect nearly every body system and lead to the following health challenges:
In addition to improving your overall health, stress management is essential to enhance your quality of life.
Skills to Build in Stress Management
Stress management begins with recognizing that stress levels have become too high, determining the source or sources of stress, and taking an inventory of things within your control that you can adjust to help reduce stress levels and improve your health.
It may not always be easy to identify stress, especially if your stress levels increase slowly over time. Even when you recognize stress, it may not be identified as the cause of the negative health and life effects. Making these connections can go a long way in prioritizing changes that promote stress management.
7 Stress Management Techniques
Stress management takes consistent effort, but you can build the skills to manage your stress. Some skills to build that help with stress management include using positive self-talk, time management, prioritization, and relaxation techniques. Below are additional strategies for practicing stress management.
Becoming aware of the stress response, including thoughts and beliefs, is essential. Negative thoughts can lead to stress. They can also be acknowledged and replaced with more neutral or positive thoughts. Relaxation techniques can help, which may include breathing exercises and visualizations.
Time Management and Prioritization
Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming when there are a lot of responsibilities and tasks to complete. Time management and prioritization are great ways to determine the most critical and time-sensitive things to do and to minimize stress. In addition to reducing stress, making a schedule and planning tasks can help increase productivity and free up more time.
You can use relaxation techniques to counteract the stress response. Some examples include:
The "best" relaxation techniques are the ones that you enjoy and can do consistently.
Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing
The diaphragm is a muscle located between the chest and abdomen. It helps to pull air into the lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing looks like expanding the stomach instead of the chest and can help to lower stress levels.
This practice may also be called "belly breathing" or "deep breathing." To do this, inhale slowly, imagining pulling air into the stomach. It may help to place a hand on your belly to feel the rise and fall of your stomach or count while breathing in and out.
Connection With Others
Social support, such as interacting with friends and family, is vital in managing stress. Having a solid support network you spend time with regularly can help to reduce stress. This may be having a friend at work, attending social gatherings, connecting with family or roommates, or having phone conversations with loved ones who live far away.
Limiting Stressful Stimuli
Stress management techniques are about stress reduction and stress prevention. Limiting exposure to stressors can prevent stress levels from increasing. This may include staying away from media outlets or apps that lead to doomscrolling, checking the news only at certain times, limiting the types of news stories you consume, and taking breaks to disconnect from screens, especially before bed.
Spending Time in Nature
Spending time in nature has been found to reduce stress levels. It can lower cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. Getting into nature can include hiking, relaxing by the water, or taking a quick break to step outside during a busy work day. Even opening or looking out a window can help.
Dealing With Chronic Stress: Everyday Management
Chronic stress is when stress levels are elevated for weeks or longer. In addition to stress management techniques, some lifestyle changes that can help to treat chronic stress include:
If chronic stress adversely impacts your health and quality of life, contact a trusted healthcare provider for additional support and treatment options.
Asking for Help
Seek support if you or someone you know is experiencing stress that negatively impacts their health or life. Therapists, counselors, and psychologists can provide talk therapy and teach you effective stress management techniques. Participating in cognitive behavioral therapy can help you effectively manage your stress and can be done face-to-face or remotely.
Stress is a common human experience that can occur in response to stressful situations or build over time and become chronic. Left unmanaged, stress can lead to adverse health effects. You can build stress management skills to reduce the negative impacts of stress. Effective stress management techniques include relaxation exercises, diaphragmatic breathing, connection with a support network, limiting stressful stimuli, and spending time in nature. Incorporate these techniques into your daily life to manage and prevent chronic stress.
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