Four Ways to Manage Stress

Whether it be work stress, relationship stress, or health stress, we all experience stress at some point in life and at different degrees of intensity. Key to stress management is learning to target these stressors with strategies and skills. Here are four stress management skills that can help reduce stress and create relaxation.

1. Engagement in pleasurable activities: We as human beings can become busy with life and forget to find time to relax by engaging in activities we enjoy. A psychologist can assist in terms of problem solving around ways to start engaging in pleasurable activities with your schedule and/or brainstorming around experimenting with trying out new activities. Experimenting with new activities is important especially as a person ages or there is a loss in the person’s physical abilities and may no longer be able to engage in activities previously enjoyed. A therapist can also focus the person on creating a new norm for themselves to not only find other activities to engage in that help decrease stress but also changing the way in which they perceives their life.

2. Changing thinking: Our thoughts influence feelings and actions. Thoughts can be realistic and accurate and some when stress is high can be unbalanced and illogical. For example, Worries about the future (e.g. I wont ever find a job) can contribute to a lot of anxiety and stress and interfere with ones actions to find a job. A skilled therapist can assist you in identifying these unhelpful thoughts and create more balanced, realistic, and productive thinking that results in a more positive mood.

3. Relaxation skills:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing – as babies we breathe from our diaphragm and as adults we breath from our chests. Chest breathing is shallow breathing in which we are not taking in the most beneficial oxygen that we get when we breath from our diaphragm. Breathing from the diaphragm helps to bring in the healing oxygen to our bodies and has a calming effect to our minds. This technique helps to retrain us how to breath in a relaxing way to calm our minds. You do this by focusing on inhaling and allowing the belly to expand and when exhaling allowing the belly to shrink. Breathing is slowly, smoothly, and deeply at your own pace. This is a technique that aids in decreasing stress, improving sleep, and chronic pain.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) – When stress is prolonged it can start to target the body and manifest itself as tension in muscles. However, one technique we can use to target tension in the body is PMR. A relaxed body equals a calm mind so PMR can assist in ultimately decreasing stress. A therapist can teach you how to tense and relax various muscle groups and noticing the difference between tension and relaxation. Tensing muscles lead to then feeling the relaxation of them.
  • Visualization– Visualization also called imagery is a powerful tool to decrease stress. By refocusing attention to a place either made up or real that is relaxing can help to calm the mind. It is amazing our minds have the ability to be somewhere else mentally even though in reality we are not physically there. This is a skill that is very powerful.

4. Mindfulness – Mindfulness is about being aware in the present moment of your experience. A lot of times we ask humans may be focused on our pasts or worried about the future and this thinking interferes with being in the now moment. Mindfulness teaches how to take in through your senses what is occurring in the present and a therapist can assist in learning this skill.

Posted in

Dr. Tina A. Watson

Leave a Comment