Now that the deep connection between physical health and emotional well-being has been established, stress management is recognized as an important component of daily life. Reducing stress has been found to improve relationships and personal satisfaction, and make students and employees more efficient. In order for successful stress management to take place, a stress assessment must be completed, designed to evaluate a patient’s stress level and to highlight any areas of concern. These results are used to devise a customized treatment plan that provides patients with a variety of techniques to alleviate stress and increase comfort, energy level and productivity.
Negative Effects of Stress
We know that stress can produce physical, cognitive and psychological symptoms as well as exacerbate existing ones. Research has demonstrated that there are physiological reasons for this since the human body reacts to stress by producing cortisol, which alters metabolic, cardiovascular, neurological and immunological responses. While, almost any symptom can be precipitated, people who are stressed most typically experience:
- Inability to concentrate
- Appetite and sleep disturbances
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
In addition, research has shown that stress worsens many medical conditions including:
- Chronic pain
- Multiple sclerosis
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
Stress also decreases the immune response, slowing healing and making individuals more susceptible to infection. Because of all the scientific data demonstrating the negative effects of stress, stress management is now available through health care providers, educational institutions and places of employment.
Stress Management Techniques
There are many ways to combat stress. A method that helps one person cope may not be as effective for another. It is often necessary for individuals to experiment in order to find which combination of techniques works best for them. Stress management can provide relief from stress-related symptoms and a pathway to a healthier lifestyle. For many people, eating a healthy diet and engaging in physical exercise are a good beginning for reducing stress levels.
Various types of psychotherapy, in which the patient expresses and explores the causes of personal stress and is trained in new coping strategies, are often helpful. In extreme cases, medication may also be prescribed to get the individual through a particularly trying situation. For ongoing stress, a variety of other techniques from the world of alternative, or complementary, medicine are also available. These include:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Chiropractic care
- Massage therapy
- Qi gong
- Tai Chi
While stress is an unavoidable part of modern living, stress management can make life more manageable, providing the ability to relax in the midst of turmoil and a sense of personal control. Typically, a combination of stress-reducing strategies works best.