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Emotional Wellbeing

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, as in 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, such as smoking, overeating, and overdrinking
  • Suffering deterioration 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 so 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

  1. Burns, D.D., Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Signet: NY, NY, 1981.
  2. Davis, M., McKay, M., and Eshelman, E.R. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. New Harbinger: Richmond, CA, 1980.
  3. Farquhar, J. The American Way of Life Need Not Be Hazardous to Your Health. Standford Alumni Association: Stanford, CA, 1978.
  4. McKay, M., Davis, M., and Fanning, P. Thoughts and Feelings: The Art of Cognitive Stress Intervention. New Harbinger: Richmaon, CA, 1981.
  5. Woolfolk, R.L., and Richardson, F.C. Stress, Sanity and Survival. Monarch: NY, NY, 1978.
  6. Benson, Herbert, The Relaxation Response.
  7. Hymans, Joe. Zen in the Martial Arts.

Breathing Exercises

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

Stress Indicators*

Physical/Behavioral; Emotional/Social; and Intellectual Response to Stress
(May be causal or related factors)

Physical or Behavioral

Accident prone
Alcohol or drug abuse
Allergies
Appetite (loss or increase)
Arthritis
Backaches
Breathing difficulties
-hyperventilating
-shallow breathing
-shortness of breath
Bruxism (teeth grinding/at sleep)
Chest tightness
Cholesterol (high)
Colitis
Constipation
Cramps
Diarrhea
Dizziness
Dry mouth
Eye pain
Eye squinting
Face downcast
Face flushed
Fainting spells
Fatigue
Fingernail biting
Forehead, raised and wrinkled
Frowning

Gait slowed
Grimacing
Grinding teeth
Hair twisting
Hands cold
Hay fever
Heart rate increased
High blood pressure
Hive, rash, itching
Hypermotility (can't sit still)
Hyperventilation
Indigestion
Insomnia
Low resistance to infection and minor illness
Migraine headaches
Muscle tightness, face, jaws, back of neck shoulders, etc.
Nausea
Nightmares
Numb or tingling extremities
Overeating
Pounding and rapid heart beat
Premenstrual cramps
Premenstrual tension
Pupils dilated
Sexual disinterest
Shaking

Skin pale
Sleeping too much
Shoulders raised
Sighing
Slumped posture
Sneezing
Speech slowed
Stuttering
Stomachache
Stomach butterflies
Stomach gas
Stomach ulcer
Sweating
Sweaty palms
Tearfulness
Tension
Tension headaches
Tiredness
Trembling, tics, twitching
Urinating frequently
Voice: change in pitch volume, shaky
Vomiting
Weakness, especially in legs
Weight gain
Weight loss

Emotional or Social

Agitation
Anger or angry outbursts
Anxiousness; general or specific
Blaming others
Critical of self
Crying
Depression
Difficulty in relationships
Dread

Emotional instability
Fear of groups or crowds
Fears--general (please name)
Guilt feelings
Hyperexcitability
Impulsive behavior
Indecisive
Irritability
Jealousy

Lack of initiative
Loss on interest in living
Loss of self-esteem
Moodiness
Restlessness
Sadness
Suspiciousness
Withdrawal from relationships
Worthlessness feeling

Intellectual

Concentration difficulties
Errors in judging distance
Errors in language (grammar, enunciation, pronunciation)
Errors in use of numbers
Fantasy life increased (escape)
Fantasy life lessened

Forgetfulness
Inattention
Lack of attention to details
Lack of awareness to external events
Loss of creativity
Mental blocking

Over attention to details
Past-orientated rather than present or future
Perfectionism
Rumination
Thoughts of death or suicide
Worrying

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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: 3/3/2009...#6409