What Is Stress Management?

Stress may be hard to avoid, but the ways in which you manage it are within your control.   Stress management consists of a series of techniques that you integrate into your life to cope with the psychological, emotional, physical and behavioral responses that you experience through stress.

One trend in stress reduction in the early 2000s was the development of stress management programs or stress reduction strategies tailored to specific categories of people, often defined by their occupation or by a chronic health condition.  For example, journalists who cover traumatic events are increasingly recognized as susceptible to developing posttraumatic stress disorder. With regard to specific diseases, stress management programs have been pioneered as of 2004 for patients with asthma or lupus erythematosus.

Stress management techniques come in three forms: action oriented, emotion oriented and acceptance oriented.


The action oriented approach to stress management involves confronting a stressor head-on and doing what it takes to remedy that situation.  An example of action-oriented stress management would be to trade in the frenzied lifestyle of the city for a more peaceful existence in the suburbs.


The emotion – oriented approach to stress management involves altering your views, thoughts and perceptions of a situation so as to transform it into a more positive and understandable obstacle or challenge.  An example would be to allow you to learn something from a stressful event rather than view yourself as a victim.


The acceptance-oriented approach to stress management involves accepting those situations over which you have no control such as the death of a loved one and pushing through to overcome it.

Learning how to manage stress has the short-term benefits of giving people some sense of control over their lives, providing them with positive coping strategies and making them more relaxed and healthier.  The long-term benefits can be a stronger immune system, proper hormonal balance and reduced susceptibility to such serious, life-threatening diseases as heart disease and cancer.

Recent advances in the understanding of the many complex connections between the human mind and body have produced a variety of mainstream approaches to stress-related illness. Present treatment regimens may include any one or more of the following:

Medications:  These may include drugs to control blood pressure or other physical symptoms of stress, as well as drugs that affect the patient’s mood (tranquilizers or antidepressants).

Stress Management Programs:  These may be either individual or group treatments and usually involve analysis of the stressors in the patient’s life. They often focus on job or workplace-related stress.

Behavioral Approaches:  These strategies include relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and physical exercise programs including walking.

Massage:  Therapeutic massage relieves stress by relaxing the large groups of muscles in the back, neck, arms and legs.

Cognitive Therapy:  These approaches teach patients to reframe or mentally reinterpret the stressors in their lives in order to modify the body’s physical reactions.

Meditation and Associated Spiritual or Religious Practices: Recent studies have found positive correlations between these practices and stress hardiness.

Holistic Treatment:  Yoga, Tai Chi, Akido are now accepted as useful parts of mainstream stress reduction programs.  Other therapies include aromatherapy, dance therapy, music therapy, biofeedback, nutrition-based treatments (including dietary guidelines and nutritional supplements), acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal medicine.


Making even small changes in your day-to-day lifestyle can help you manage stress and reduce the severity of periodic bouts. The goal is not to completely eliminate stress from your life, but to give yourself the tools and strength to manage the stressors when they arrive.

Consider applying one or more of these techniques into your daily routine:

Document Your Stress In A Journal

  • Helps you to become aware of your emotions, their origins and the reason they exist
  • Aids in the relaxation which strengthens your immune system and decreases symptoms of asthma and arthritis
  • Improves cognitive functioning

 Maintain A Healthy Diet To Reduce Stress 

  • Eat slowly and allow yourself time to enjoy your food
  • Do not eat just because you are upset or anxious
  • Eat breakfast
  • Eat fresh, unprocessed food, ideally home-cooked
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day
  • Eat mixed seeds for B vitamins, calcium and protein
  • Specific foods that protect against stress: apples, apricots, asparagus, avocados, bananas, barley, beetroot, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, figs, grapes, kiwi fruit, lettuce, oats, oranges, peaches, peppers, raspberries, spinach and strawberries

Declutter To Reduce Stress

  • Create a relaxing soothing space
  • Will have a calming effect

Get Your Affairs In Order To Reduce Stress

  • Set up an online automatic bill-paying system so that you will not have to keep track of due dates
  • Cut down on junk mail by signing up for the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service (MPS) at www.the-dma.org. (Go to the DMA Bookstore link and then click on Consumer)
  • Take your name off credit card and insurance solicitation lists by registering with sites such as www.optoutprescreen.com
  • Create a budget for long-term savings
  • Schedule your regular appointments through the end of the year (doctor, dentist and so on)

Have Sex To Reduce Stress

  • Encourages emotional balance by offering a sense of touch and necessary social interaction
  • Can provide emotional intimacy
  • Delivers a physical workout that burns calories
  • Leads to deep breathing which relaxes that body and oxygenates the blood
  • Causes your brain to release endorphins, hormones that relieve pain and give a sense of overall well-being

Laugh To Reduce Stress

  • Provides an emotional release
  • Distracts from negative emotions such as anger and guilt
  • Reduces levels of stress hormones, including Cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine
  • Increases antibody-producing cells, which strengthen the immune system and inhibit physical effects of stress
  • Exercises the heart

Many cancer patients simply cannot find the resources within them to laugh due to the seriousness of the situation they or their loved one are dealing with.  In a recent keynote for a Cancer Survivors Day Celebration, I came across a woman with breast cancer who accidentally discovered the emotional trap her cancer had led her into.  She had had a double mastectomy and had two prosthetic breasts.  One day, three weeks after her surgery, she went to her front porch to pick up her morning newspaper.  As she bent over to pick it up, one of her breasts popped out.  And the family dog, thinking this was a new toy, grabbed it and was running around the yard with it in his mouth.  She ran after the dog, shouting, “You come back here with my breast.  You give me my breast!”

When she realized what she was saying, she stopped and looked around to see if anyone else was up that early and heard her.  To her great relief, no one else was up.  But when she realized what she had been shouting and thought about what the neighbors would have thought had they heard her, she started laughing and couldn’t stop.  She was laughing so hard that tears were coming out of her eyes.

When she finally stopped laughing, she realized that laughter was what had been missing from her life.  She could not remember laughing since her diagnosis of cancer.  And she was determined to never let another day go by without having some laughter in her life.  She realized that she needed to laugh, even when she didn’t feel like laughing.  The laughter itself boosted her spirits and made it easier to face the tough days.

Source:  Paul McGhee, PhD. Humor as Survival Training for a Stressed-Out World.  Visit his website:  www.laughterremedy.com for seminars and scheduling.


Exercise To Reduce Stress

  • Develop speed and strength
  • Improve cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Increases levels of endorphins

Sleep To Reduce Stress 

  • Improves judgment and reaction time
  • Improves cognitive function
  • Improves vision
  • Better short-term memory
  • Improved physical performance
  • Increases motivation

Meditate To Reduce Stress

  • Creates a sense of calm and well-being
  • Slows down your heart rate and breathing
  • Improves your immune function
  • Helps your body produce health-enhancing hormones
  • Slows the aging process
  • Helps clear your mind and boosts your creativity
  • Increases your emotional stability

Just for today, I will let go of anger.

Just for today, I will let go of worry.

Just for today, I will give thanks for my many blessings.

Just for today, I will do my work honestly.

Just for today, I will be kind to my neighbor and every living thing.

~ The Five Spiritual Principles of Reiki