Stress is a physical, mental and emotional response to a challenging event — not the event itself. Often referred to as the fight-or-flight response, the stress response occurs automatically when you feel threatened. Stress, whether positive or negative, is a normal part of everyone's life. Negative stress, however, diminishes your quality of life.
Stress management comprises a wide range of approaches to help you better deal with stress and adversity. Stress management might include problem-solving, prioritization and time management. Another approach includes enhancing skills to withstand adverse situations by improving emotional flexibility, finding greater meaning in life, increasing the sense of control and cultivating optimism. A third approach is to practice relaxing techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, tai chi, exercise and prayer. Improving personal relationships is an important component of stress management.
Stress management can help you lead a more balanced, healthier life. When channeled positively, stress can lead to growth, action and change.
For managing stress, experts at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Arizona provide or teach:
- Acupuncture. Insertion of fine needles in the skin at key points in your body to boost your body's natural painkillers and increase blood circulation.
- Counseling. Discussion of life and health-related stresses with a medical professional to develop coping skills that address feelings, illnesses and challenging situations.
- Deep breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm (muscle under the rib cage) to establish a pattern of slower, deeper and more efficient breathing.
- Guided imagery (visualization). Picturing calming mental images of relaxing places and situations to cope with negative emotions, feelings or circumstances.
- Massage therapy. Various techniques that involve pressing and rubbing the body's soft tissues — muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and skin — for comfort, healing and pain reduction.
- Meditation. A practice that calms and focuses the mind, tuning out distractions, sometimes involving repeating a word or phrase, or visualizing a peaceful place.
- Mindfulness. A technique in which you stay focused, engaged and completely absorbed in the present moment.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Tensing and relaxing the muscle groups throughout your body to reduce muscle tension and calm anxious feelings.
- Resilience training. Learning to balance the demands placed on you with your available resources; finding meaning in life; controlling the controllable; and seeing life's situations as challenges or opportunities rather than overwhelming obstacles.
- Yoga. Various types of mind-body practices that combine a series of precise postures with controlled breathing to help relax your mind and increase strength and flexibility.
Feb. 28, 2014
- Stress in America report. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/national-report.pdf. Accessed July 25, 2013.
- AskMayoExpert. Stress management. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
- Sood A, et al. Stress management and resilience training among Department of Medicine faculty: A pilot randomized clinical trial. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2011;26:858.
- Wang AT, et al. Massage therapy after cardiac surgery. Seminars in Thoracic Cardiovascular Surgery. 2010;22:225.
- Thomley BS, et al. Effects of a brief, comprehensive, yoga-based program on quality of life and biometric measures in an employee population: A pilot study. Explore. 2011;7:27.
- Bauer BA, et al. Effect of massage therapy on pain, anxiety, and tension after cardiac surgery: A randomized study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2010;16:70.
- Loprinzi CE, et al. Stress Management and Resilience Training (SMART) program to decrease stress and enhance resilience among breast cancer survivors: A pilot randomized clinical trial. Clinical Breast Cancer. 2011;11:364.
- Sood A (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 25, 2013.
- Bauer BA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 25, 2013.
- AskMayoExpert. Resilience training. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- Practice. Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. http://www.mayo.edu/research/centers-programs/complementary-integrative-medicine/complementary-integrative-medicine-program/practice. Accessed Oct. 7, 2013.