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.

Types

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.
  • Expertise and experience. Mayo Clinic has developed structured approaches to stress management, such as resilience training and attention and interpretation therapy, which are provided by Mayo Clinic's Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. The Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program combines conventional medicine with evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine. Each year, more than 5,000 patients receive treatment in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program.
  • Latest tools and techniques. Mayo specialists offer various stress management tools and techniques to help you manage your response to difficult situations. If you're facing illness, Mayo specialists can help integrate stress management into your overall treatment plan.
  • Evidence-based approach. Mayo doctors recommend treatments based on research that demonstrates the effectiveness of complementary and integrative medicine. Mayo researchers conduct studies on stress management to improve treatments.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.

Why Choose Mayo Clinic

What Sets Mayo Clinic Apart

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

At Mayo Clinic in Arizona, specialists in complementary and integrative medicine and psychology offer a variety of treatments for stress management.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, specialists in complementary and integrative medicine and psychology offer a variety of treatments for stress management.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic researchers conduct numerous clinical studies involving complementary and integrative medicine. Research is key to developing and evaluating evidence-based treatments. Read more about Mayo's Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program and see a list of research projects.

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic doctors on stress management on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Brent A. Bauer, M.D.

Tony Y. Chon M.D.

Susanne M. Cutshall R.N., C.N.S.

Mark C. Lee, M.D.

Amit Sood, M.D.

Jon C. Tilburt, M.D.

Dietlind Wahner-Roedler, M.D.

Feb. 28, 2014