This lesson is going to cover ways to cope with stress by looking at:
Stress is a body's reaction to changes within a person's environment. It is a helpful reaction in the short term because it can lead to reactions like a fight or flight response. This can help get a person out of situations that are either harmful or dangerous. However, stress can also lead to mental or physical problems in the long term like fatigue, irritability, decreased mental functioning, heart disease from increased blood pressure, ulcers, and also decreased immunological functioning. Because of these responses, it is important for people to learn stress management techniques to better cope. Stress management is what we refer to as any kind of cognitive or behavioral strategy that a person can learn to reduce their stress and its harmful effects.
The most popular and the longest historically used stress management technique, is meditation. Meditation can take many different forms, and is a trained relaxation technique in which a person focuses on something else like their breathing, bodily sensation, or surrounding to gain an increased awareness of themselves or their surroundings. This is often considered an altered sense of consciousness. Meditation can help to reduce psychological stress by removing anxious thoughts from your mind, and it can also help to calm the body's excitatory stress reactions.
A related technique is called guided imagery. This is a coping strategy where a person, instead of trying to relax the mind or trying to think of nothing, purposefully thinks of things that are both positive and calming to that person. These are mental images that help to relax the body, as well as to reduce a person's stress. This technique can positively affect the body as well in the same ways mediation does.
A person using guided imagery will often times think of a calming place like being alone on a tropical beach or being out in the middle of the woods. While a person is doing this, they try to use all of their senses.
Someone picturing a beach will try to incorporate sounds, like the waves crashing on the beach, or the smells, like the salt in the air.
Another technique that people use is called progressive relaxation. This technique is where a person intentionally tenses up, and then relaxes specific muscles in their body in succession. They will start with one particular part of their body, say their shoulder, back, or legs, and they will tense it up, and then release it. The person focuses on that feeling of relaxation when they release that tension, which helps to reduce that person's stress. This technique controls the mind by first controlling the body, and was developed by an American physician in the 1920s. It has been proven to be very effective against stress-related illnesses, and is still very popular today.
Try this out right now! First focus on one part of your body. Tense it up for a few seconds, and then focus on the release as you relax it.
One of the biggest factors that leads to ongoing and long term stress are the negative thoughts caused by a person themselves. Some event might initiate the stress, but a person dwelling on it, or the bad feelings that are caused by the stress, will cause that stress to continue or to worsen over time.
Psychologist Donald Meichenbaum proposed a technique called Stress Inoculation, which is when a person instead focuses on those positive thoughts and feelings to reduce anxiety. He said that negative self-statements we're a reflection of these negative thoughts and emotions that a person has. These are critical thoughts that a person has that increase the stress, particularly in anticipation of an event that they know is coming up.
A person might say to themselves “I can't do this” or “I'm terrible at this.” These kinds of self-statements can help to defeat them or to increase their stress over time.
His technique involves countering these thoughts with what he called coping statements. Coping statements are positive, reassuring statements that help to stop negative self-statements. It's a way of talking yourself up.
These statements might include phrases like: “I'll do this one step at a time” to talk themselves through a situation or “I've done this before” to remind themselves that a situation isn't a big deal. A person might remind themselves to stay focused, or that a situation will be over soon.
Stress management techniques are any kind of cognitive or behavioral strategies that a person can learn to help cope with stress and its harmful effects. Mediation is one of the most popular techniques for stress management. It involves removing anxious thoughts from your mind. Another technique is called guided imagery, and involves visualizing things that are positive and calming. With this technique a person tries to incorporate other senses as well. Progressive relaxation is where a person intentionally tenses a part of their body and then relaxes it. Focusing on the sensation of relaxing the body part will help ease stress. Stress inoculation is a way to counteract negative self thoughts a person might have.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia Author Erick Taggart
Positive, reassuring statements to stop negative self-statements.
A coping strategy related to meditation, where a person, instead of relaxing the mind, instead thinks of things that are positive and calming.
A trained relaxation technique in which a person focuses on something (like breathing, body sensations, imagery, surroundings, etc.) to gain an increased awareness.
Critical thoughts a person has that increase stress, particularly in anticipation of an event.
A technique where a person intentionally tenses, then relaxes, specific muscles of the body in succession.
Where a person focuses on positive thoughts and feelings to reduce anxiety.