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

Other stress-management strategies; Time management

Good time-management skills are critical for effective stress control. In particular, learning to prioritize tasks and avoid over-commitment are critical measures to make sure that you're not overscheduled. Always using a calendar or planner and checking it faithfully before committing to anything is one way to develop time-management skills. You can also learn to identify time-wasting tasks by keeping a diary for a few days and noticing where you may be losing time.

For example, productivity experts recommend setting aside a specific time (or multiple times) each day to check and respond to email and messages rather than being a continual slave to incoming information. Banishing procrastination is another time-management skill that can be learned or perfected.

Organizational skills

If your physical surroundings (office, desk, kitchen, closet, car) are well organized, you won't be faced with the stress of misplaced objects and clutter. Make it a habit to periodically clean out and sort through the messes of paperwork and clutter that accumulate over time.

Support systems

People with strong social support systems experience fewer physical and emotional symptoms of stress than their less-connected counterparts. Loved ones, friends, business associates, neighbors, and even pets are all part of our social networks. Cultivating and developing a social support network is healthy for both body and mind.

How can I get help with stress management?

If you feel you can't cope with or manage stress on your own or you are faced with unbearable stress, remember that there are resources to help.

  1. Check in with your doctor. Stress can take its toll on your body, increasing your susceptibility to infections and worsening the symptoms of practically any chronic condition. Stress alone can also be a cause of numerous physical symptoms. Your physician will be able to assess the effects that stress may be having on your physical functioning and can recommend ways to combat these negative influences. Remember to be honest about the extent of stress you are experiencing. In severe cases of short-term life stress, your doctor can talk with you about the possibility of medications to help alleviate the short-term symptoms. He or she can also suggest relaxation techniques and provide advice on stress-reduction strategies that are most appropriate for you. Your doctor is also an excellent referral source should you decide to seek a counselor or therapist.
  2. Consider counseling. Stress-management counseling is offered by various types of mental-health professionals. Stress counseling and group-discussion therapy have proven benefits in reduction of stress symptoms and improvement in overall health and attitude. Counseling doesn't have to be a long-term commitment, but some people will benefit from a series of stress-counseling sessions from a qualified therapist. He/she can help you identify the problem areas in your life and work on strategies to control your most stressful moments or situations. The very act of talking to an impartial and supportive observer can also be a great way to unleash tension and worry.
  3. Spend time with those you love. Countless studies show that people with a balanced, happy social support structure (consisting of friends, family, loved ones, or even pets) experience fewer stress-related symptoms and are better stress managers than people without social support. Your loved ones are also in an excellent position to observe your lifestyle and offer suggestions and help when you need it.
  4. Take a course. Many relaxation programs, meditation techniques, and methods for emotional and physical relaxation are actually learned processes that can be acquired most quickly through a class or course with a competent instructor. An added benefit is that you will meet others with similar goals and interests.

Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine

REFERENCE:

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015
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