Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP
Stress Management 101
Stress Management 101, Written for D’Arienzo Psychological Group by University of North Florida (UNF) Psychology Student and Future Industrial Organizational Psychologist, Brandon Araujo, November 2013
Stress is a very unpleasant feeling that most individuals struggle with on a daily basis; in our lives we must deal with many unexpected conflicts that will cause us to panic and become flustered. So how do we avoid becoming stressed out? In order to answer that we must first understand why stress occurs.
When the mind is in a state of panic (referred to as fight or flight) the autonomic nervous system releases adrenocorticotropic hormones, which increases the body’s heart rate, digestion, and respiratory rate. This occurs because we are instinctively wired for survival, so if we were at risk of an attack our mind prepares our body to either fight back or run away. In today’s world we have programmed our mind to respond to little problems such as, forgetting to pay a bill, the same way we would respond to a deadly attack; by doing this our physical and mental health becomes jeopardized. High levels of stress have been reported to have a positive correlation with heart attacks, obesity, migraines, arthritis, allergies and even cancer.
This brings us back to the original and very important question, “What can we do to control this stress?” It is important to take note of the word “control” and not to misinterpret it as “eliminate.” Stress is a very important motivator and without it we would have nothing to drive our success; however, when we loose control of our stress is when it becomes a problem. Most people drastically underestimate how much control they have over their stress. The amount of control we believe to have in our lives is referred to as locus of control; people who believe they have a great deal of control over their own fate are said to have an internal locus of control, while people who believe they have no control over there lives have an external locus of control. Research has shown that individuals with an external locus of control are much more susceptible to stress than individuals with an internal locus of control.
To control our stress we need to understand what order it occurs in, which is as follows: occurrence of an unexpected life event, labeling that event as stressful, emotionally becoming aroused, physiologically becoming aroused, and facing the consequences of stress such as poor health. The most efficient way to prevent stress is to examine a situation and decide that it is not important enough to become emotionally and physiologically aroused. One good way to do this is through positive self-talk which is the process of eliminating negative thoughts about ourselves such as, “I’ll never get all of this work done” and increasing positive thoughts such as, “this is easy, I’ve dealt with much worse than this.” By doing this we increase our self-efficacy, which is how much an individual believes in him/herself to complete tasks and reach goals. Another good way to prevent situations from being perceived as stressful is through attitude of gratitude, which is the practice of taking time every day to focus on things we are grateful for. This makes us realize the positive things in our lives and forget about the little insignificant problems we may have, thus resulting in a more enjoyable life.
However if you are unable to control your stress at times and slip into the emotional and physiological arousal stages of stress there are many ways to relax the mind and body. The most popular and widely used form of relaxation is deep diaphragmatic breathing. This exercise is typically conducted in a quite room and typically lasts 10 to15 minutes. To start this exercise you must find a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Next, take a deep breath in through your nose, expanding your abdominals, then exhaling slowly through your mouth; to encourage concentration it is best to repeat “one” in your head while inhaling and “two” while exhaling. There are many other relaxation techniques so it is best to try multiple exercises to discover one that works best for you.
At D’Arienzo Psychological Group, psychological consultation is available to assist you in managing your stress and the stress of your loved ones. Call us today to see our psychologist, mental health counselor, licensed clinical social worker, and or life coaches to best address your stress management issues. We hope that you enjoyed Brandon’s article and found it helpful.