When appropriately applied, stress management training can reduce the degree and intensity of your current stress reactions and help you develop skills for preventing additional, harmful stress reactions.
Concepts of stress management training
Stress reactions take five general forms:
- Subjective experience of distress (feeling tense, anxious, worried, harassed)
- Physical symptoms in response to stress (such as raised blood pressure, tension headaches, upset stomach)
- Responding to stress with unhealthy habits (smoking, overeating, and overdrinking)
- Suffering a decline in performance
- Increased conflicts with people, or decreased satisfaction in personal relationships
To reduce stress, you must be able to:
- Be aware of initial signs of stress reaction
- Develop basic stress management skills
- Be able to apply the stress management skills in real life
Stress management skills include:
- Relaxation through deep breathing techniques, relaxation imagery, tension-relaxation contrasts, cue-controlled relaxation, and biofeedback
- Cognitive techniques: Review your attitudes and values, restructure your thinking, set goals, use positive imagery, rehearse mentally, schedule
- Behavioral changes to better manage interpersonal situations and distress--Check your assumptions, share your expectations with others, be assertive, exercise and consume sensibly
- Relationship review: Review past hurts, forgive, communicate feelings, listen, reward
General procedures in stress management training
- Develop an awareness of your stress reaction and its early signs
- Learn a relaxation skill that you adopt as your own
- Learn to apply the relaxation skill when the first signs of stress develop
- Master abdominal breathing techniques
- Expose yourself to simulated stressors(stressful situations) so that you can practice your skills in real-life situations
- Practice at home by using a video or audiotaped relaxation and/or imagery program
- Practice transferring stress management skills to real-life situations
- Develop behavioral strategies to prevent stress reactions and to reduce the frequency of stressful situations.
A thorough assessment of life stressors and coping skills is essential for the development of an effective stress management plan for any given individual.
* J. Melvin Witmer, Professor, School of Applied Behavior Sciences and Educational Leadership. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. March 1979.
Betty Yorde, Ph.D., Counseling, Stress Management and Biofeedback Associates, Nelsonville Professional Building, 370 Popular Street, Nelsonville, Ohio, March 1979.
Brief bibliography of self-help books
- Burns, D.D., Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Signet: NY, NY, 1981.
- Davis, M., McKay, M., and Eshelman, E.R. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. New Harbinger: Richmond, CA, 1980.
- Farquhar, J. The American Way of Life Need Not Be Hazardous to Your Health. Standford Alumni Association: Stanford, CA, 1978.
- McKay, M., Davis, M., and Fanning, P. Thoughts and Feelings: The Art of Cognitive Stress Intervention. New Harbinger: Richmaon, CA, 1981.
- Woolfolk, R.L., and Richardson, F.C. Stress, Sanity and Survival. Monarch: NY, NY, 1978.
- Benson, Herbert, The Relaxation Response.
- Hymans, Joe. Zen in the Martial Arts.
Deep Breathing: Imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon. With every long, slow exhalation you feel more relaxed.
Rhythmic Breathing: If your breathing is short and hurried, slow it down by taking long, slow breaths. Inhale slowly, then exhale slowly. Count slowly to five as you inhale, then count slowly to five as you exhale. As you exhale, pay attention to how your body naturally relaxes.
Stress Management: Ten Ways to Ease Stress
- Eat and drink sensibly
- Assess yourself
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Study and practice self-control techniques
- Take responsibility for feelings
- Reduce stressors
- Explicate your values and live by them
- Set realistic goals and expectations
- Sell yourself; have self-esteem
Physical/Behavioral; Emotional/Social; and Intellectual Response to Stress
(May be causal or related factors)
Physical or Behavioral
Alcohol or drug abuse
Appetite (loss or increase)
-shortness of breath
Bruxism (teeth grinding/at sleep)
Forehead, raised and wrinkled
Heart rate increased
High blood pressure
Hive, rash, itching
Hypermotility (can't sit still)
Low resistance to infection and minor illness
Muscle tightness, face, jaws, back of neck shoulders, etc.
Numb or tingling extremities
Pounding and rapid heart beat
Sleeping too much
Trembling, tics, twitching
Voice: change in pitch volume, shaky
Weakness, especially in legs
Emotional or Social
Anger or angry outbursts
Anxiousness; general or specific
Critical of self
Difficulty in relationships
Fear of groups or crowds
Lack of initiative
Loss of interest in living
Loss of self-esteem
Withdrawal from relationships
Errors in judging distance
Errors in language (grammar, enunciation, pronunciation)
Errors in use of numbers
Fantasy life increased (escape)
Fantasy life lessened
Lack of attention to details
Lack of awareness to external events
Loss of creativity
Over attention to details
Past-orientated rather than present or future
Thoughts of death or suicide
- The National Institute of Mental Health. Fact Sheet on Stress Accessed 10/24/2016.
- The National Health Information Center. Manage Stress Accessed 10/24/2016.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. Stress: How to Cope Better With Life's Challenges Accessed 10/24/2016.
© Copyright 1995-2016 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/24/2016...#6409