Stress Management

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Diet for Stress Management Slideshow
Get tips on ways to manage stress.

Eight Immediate Stress-Busters

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

Most of our lives are filled with family, work, and community obligations, and at some point we feel as though we are "running on empty." Here are eight immediate stressbusters to help "fill up the tank!" So take deep relaxing breath and read on.

  1. Watch for the next instance in which you find yourself becoming annoyed or angryat something trivial or unimportant. Then practice letting go, making a conscious choice not to become angry or upset. Do not allow yourself to waste thought and energy where it isn't deserved. Effective angermanagement is a tried-and-true stress reducer.
  1. Breathe slowly and deeply. Before reacting to the next stressful occurrence, take three deep breaths and release them slowly. If you have a few minutes, try out a relaxation techniquesuch as meditationor guided imagery.
  1. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by stress, practice speaking more slowly than usual. You'll find that you think more clearly and react more reasonably to stressful situations. Stressed people tend to speak fast and breathlessly; by slowing down your speech you'll also appear less anxious and more in control of any situation.
  1. Jump-start an effective time management strategy. Choose one simple thing you have been putting off (e.g., returning a phone call, making a doctor's appointment), and do it immediately. Just taking care of one nagging responsibility can be energizing and can improve your attitude.

Stress-management facts

  • Stress is any physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental unrest.
  • While elimination of stress is unrealistic, management of stress is an attainable and realistic goal that can be achieved by a number of strategies.
  • People with strong social support networks report less stress and fewer negative symptoms of stress than those who lack social support.
  • Stress-management techniques include relaxation techniques, time-management skills, counseling or group therapy, exercise, and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle.
  • There are hundreds of different relaxation techniques to help manage stress, including yoga, guided imagery, biofeedback, tai chi, qigong, and progressive muscle relaxation.

What is stress?

Stress may be considered as any physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental unrest and that may be a factor in causing disease. Physical and chemical factors that can cause stress include trauma, infections, toxins, illnesses, and injuries of any sort. Emotional causes of stress and tension are numerous and varied. While many people associate the term stress with psychological stress, scientists and physicians use this term to denote any force that impairs the stability and balance of bodily functions.

If stress disrupts body balance and function, then is all stress bad? Not necessarily. A mild degree of stress and tension can sometimes be beneficial. For example, feeling mildly stressed when carrying out a project or assignment often compels us to do a good job, focus better, and work energetically.

Likewise, exercising can produce a temporary stress on some body functions, but its health benefits are indisputable. It is only when stress is overwhelming, or poorly managed, that its negative effects appear.

An important goal for those under stress is the management of life stresses. Elimination of stress is unrealistic, since stress is a part of normal life. It's impossible to completely eliminate stress, and it would not be advisable to do so. Instead, we can learn relaxation techniques and other methods to manage stress so that we have control over our stress and its effects on our physical and mental health.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015
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