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Stress Management for Health Course

Techniques used to Manage Stress


"Stress Management is the ability of an individual to manage the perceived pressures they face on a day to day basis.  This may be through a variety of techniques including reducing or reappraising the pressures and enhancing coping ability and resources."

(ISMA, Stress News April 2002, Vol 14 No. 2)


Some of the current information available on stress tends to demonise the subject and downplay our ability to be able to learn Stress Management techniques to cope and adapt to stress.  Its impossible to remove all the stressors in our lives, but this does not mean however that there is nothing we can do; fortunately there are a variety of proven ways to increase our ability to cope.

We have three main strategies we can use to tackle stress and we will be teaching you these methods in the sessions of this course.  These strategies are:


1.  Doing something about the causes of stress.


2.  Altering our thinking to a more stress resistant style of thinking.


3.  Using cushioning techniques to protect us from the stressors that we cant change; techniques such as relaxation, exercise, regular sleep, regular breaks, etc. 



1.  Doing Something about the Causes of Stress

The causes of stress are many and varied.   Its not possible to remove all the stressors in life but there are things we can do to remove or deal with some of them.  We should aim to remove as many of the causes of stress in our lives as is practicable.

Some people under stress view their situation as one that they must deal with alone; often this can lead to ignoring the problem in the hope that it will go away, but in fact this usually only increases it.  For example, ignoring a financial problem doesnt make it go away, the problem only gets bigger; but consulting a Citizens Advice Bureau financial counsellor, who can assist in negotiations with creditors, will help to deal with the problem.  If we have relationship problems, ignoring them wont make them go away, seeing a Relate counsellor can help. 

Stress is cumulative; we develop a stress problem and then make it worse by using negative coping strategies such as excess alcohol and caffeine.  Reducing alcohol and caffeine, and eating a healthier diet will help to reduce our stress load and increase our ability to handle stress.


2.  Altering our Thinking to a more Stress Resistant Thinking Style

Psychologists have found that our thinking style can increase our stress load.  Learning a less stressful way of thinking, even though the causes of stress may still be there, can reduce our stress.

We have a tendency to believe that stress is caused solely by external situations and people.  For example, if he/she hadn't behaved in that way, I wouldn't have been stressed.  But, by maintaining such views, we lose an important way of being able to reduce our own stress; we may not always be able to influence the behaviour and attitude of others, but we do have a powerful influence over ourselves and how we respond to challenging situations. 

Some of the stressors we suffer can be self-generated.  By this we don't mean that we are the cause of all our own stress but psychologists have found that stress occurs because of a transaction between ourselves and the external events and stressors.  Often our own beliefs, our thinking style, our explanatory (Attributional) style, views about ourselves, other people and the world in general, can exacerbate our stress.  This will be covered in Session 5: Stress Resistant Thinking.


3.  Cushioning Stress Management Techniques

As well as removing as many of the causes of stress that are possible and practical to remove, research has shown that using cushioning techniques can also help us to cope more effectively with stress.

There are a number of stress management techniques we can use to help cushion us from stress such as healthy eating, brisk walking, T'ai Chi, Yoga, Head Massage, Acupuncture, improving our Assertion levels, reducing Stressful Thinking, increasing Social support, etc.

For example, research indicates that people who use relaxation techniques on a regular basis, may still be in the same stressful situation and still secrete higher levels of stress hormones, but these stress hormones have a less negative effect on the body's systems and organs when compared to people who are under stress but who don't use cushioning techniques like relaxation, on a regular basis.

As we have previously mentioned it may be impossible to remove all the triggers of stress in our lives.  For example if someone is caring for a chronically ill relative this can be very stressful and it would not be that easy to remove the stressor.  But this doesn't mean there is nothing we can do.  Using cushioning techniques such as practicing daily relaxation techniques, taking regular breaks, getting in social support, etc., can help us cope more effectively with the situation and reduce our risk of developing a stress related health problem.  

A number of these cushioning techniques will be covered in detail in sessions 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this course. 


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