Seven Tips for Managing Stress

Research | American Psychological Association| January 29, 2019

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Stress is an important factor impacting health. The American Psychological Association has released numerous reports about the impact of stress and provides seven tips to help patients manage their stress.

Stress can be a reaction to a short-lived situation, such as being stuck in traffic, or it can last a long time when dealing with relationship problems, a death or other serious situations. Stress becomes dangerous when it interferes with the ability to live a normal life over an extended period. Your patients may feel tired, unable to concentrate, or irritable. Stress can also damage physical health.

Recognize how your patients deal with stress. Determine if patients are using unhealthy behaviors (such as smoking, drinking alcohol and over/under eating) to cope. Do they make unhealthy choices as a result of feeling rushed and overwhelmed?

From the American Psychological Association Stress in America Study, here are seven ways to help patients understand their stress.

  1. Understand how your patients stress. Everyone experiences stress differently. How do your patients know when they are stressed? How are their thoughts or behaviors different from times when they do not feel stressed?
     
  2. Identify origins of stress. What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to children, family, health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else?
     
  3. Learn stress signals. People experience stress in different ways. Patients may have a hard time concentrating or making decisions, feel angry, irritable or out of control, or experience headaches, muscle tension or a lack of energy. Gauge their stress signals.
     
  4. Recognize how your patients deal with stress. Determine if patients are using unhealthy behaviors (such as smoking, drinking alcohol and over/under eating) to cope. Is this a routine behavior, or is it specific to certain events or situations? Do they make unhealthy choices as a result of feeling rushed and overwhelmed?
     
  5. Recommend healthy ways to manage stress. Suggest healthy, stress-reducing activities such as meditation, exercising or talking things out with friends or family. Remind patients that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Encourage patients not to take on too much at once. Encourage them to change only one behavior at a time.
     
  6. Encourage self-care. Remind patients to eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity. Ensure they have a healthy mind and body through activities like yoga, taking a short walk, going to the gym or playing sports that will enhance both physical and mental health. Encourage patients to take regular vacations or other breaks from work. No matter how hectic life gets, patients should make time for self-care — even if it's just simple things like reading a good book or listening to music.
     
  7. Advise patients to seek support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve their ability to manage stress. If patients continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to encourage speaking with a psychologist, who can help them better manage their stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

View the Stress Tip Sheet.

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Information is provided by American Psychological Association and should not be used as a substitute for professional health and mental health care or consultation. Individuals who believe they may need or benefit from care should consult a psychologist or other licensed health/mental health professional. For additional information on stress and mind/body health, visit the APA Help Center.

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