What is Stress Management?
Stress is pervasive in this culture currently. It involves the automatic overreaction of a part of the nervous system to a perceived threat from outside or inside the individual person. As a result of the threat, a message is sent to the adrenals to dump stress chemicals that cause wide-ranging affects on the body. These include:
increased heart rate and blood flow,
constriction of blood vessels under the skin,
dilation of the pupils,
and increased availability of blood sugar and lipids.
This is part of the ‘fight or flight’ response getting us to ready to fight a perceived threat or run away from it. This was really helpful in cavemen times, but now, we no longer need to fight or flee to survive (at least not most of the time). Unfortunately, the body is hard wired with this response and it occurs automatically as a result of any ‘perceived’ threat which seems to have multiplied in number in modern times. If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, you may be running on stress a good portion of the time—launching into emergency mode with every traffic jam, phone call from the in-laws, or segment of the evening news.
But the problem with the stress response is that the more it’s activated, the harder it is to shut off. Instead of leveling off once the crisis has passed, your stress hormones, heart rate, and blood pressure remain elevated. Furthermore, extended or repeated activation of the stress response takes a heavy toll on the body. Prolonged exposure to stress increases your risk of everything from heart disease, obesity, and infection to anxiety, depression, and memory problems. Because of the widespread damage it can cause, it’s essential to learn how to deal with stress in a more positive way and reduce its impact on your daily life.
Stress is a major factor in most of the visits people make to the doctor’s office. Managing stress is therefore one of the most important elements in wellness. There are many different approaches to Stress Management. It can involve sleep hygiene, improving lifestyle (diet, exercise, sleep, etc.), herbal medicines and supplements, relaxation (breathing, meditation, tai chi, yoga, etc.), affirmations, visualization, and assertiveness training, (i.e. correcting cognitive distortions and analyzing thought patterns). A major aspect of Stress Management is to alter our perception of the external environment so that everything we encounter does not seem to pose a threat.