Techniques of stress management
1. Autogenic training – Autogenic training is a relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz in 1932. The technique involves the daily practice of sessions that last around 15 minutes, usually in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening. During each session, the practitioner will repeat a set of visualizations that induce a state of relaxation. Each session can be practiced in a position chosen amongst a set of recommended postures (for example, lying down, sitting meditation, sitting like a rag doll). Autogenic Training restores the balance between the activity of the sympathetic (flight or fight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest) branches of the autonomic nervous system. This has important health benefits, as the parasympathetic activity promotes digestion and bowel movements, lowers the blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and promotes the functions of the immune system.
2. Cognitive therapy – Cognitive therapy (CT) was developed by American psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck in 1960. Cognitive therapy seeks to help the client overcome difficulties by identifying and changing dysfunctional thinking, behavior, and emotional responses. This involves helping clients develop skills for modifying beliefs, identifying distorted thinking, relating to others in different ways, and changing behaviors. Therapy may consist of testing the assumptions which one makes and identifying how certain of one’s usually unquestioned thoughts are distorted, unrealistic and unhelpful. Once those thoughts have been challenged, one’s feelings about the subject matter of those thoughts are more easily subject to change.
3. Self-hypnosis – It is a practical and effective technique for relaxing deeply. It can be used with or without affirmations, depending on what one wants to achieve. At first one should find a place where he would be comfortable to sit down. Then one must close the eyes and try to relax one’s muscles. A good way of doing this is to use imagery and visualization. One can also move on to use suggestion through affirmations.
4. Exercise – Physical exercise is important for maintaining physical fitness and can contribute positively to maintaining a healthy weight, building and maintaining healthy
bone density, muscle strength, and joint mobility, promoting physiological wellbeing, reducing surgical risks, and strengthening the immune system. Exercise also reduces levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that builds fat in the abdominal
region, making weight loss difficult. When a person exercises, levels of both circulating serotonin and endorphins are increased.
Endorphins act as a natural pain reliever and antidepressant in the body. Endorphins have long been regarded as responsible for what is known as “runner’s high”, a euphoric feeling a person receives from intense physical exertion. These levels are known to stay elevated even several days after exercise is discontinued, possibly contributing to improvement in mood, increased self-esteem, and weight management.
5. Developing a hobby – A hobby is an activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure, typically done during one’s leisure time. In order for us to overcome the stress that we are feeling, we need to have a natural outlet of some sort or another. Having a hobby can be an excellent way to do this. They help to take us into another world where the outside problems that we may be experiencing do not exist. For example, having a creative hobby, such as scrapbooking or needlepoint can help us to focus our attention on things that we enjoy, rather than focusing it on all of the things that we need to do which are not getting done.
6. Meditation– Meditation refers to any of a family of practices in which the practitioner trains his or her mind or self-induces a mode of consciousness in order to realize some benefit. Meditation is a process in which a person attempts to concentrate his mind by focusing on an object or an idea by excluding all the other objects and ideas from his mind. The point of focus could be one’s own breath, Touch sensation, visual sensation, thoughts, chanting mantras or the holy words like ‘OM’. By keeping the mind focused on any of the above things, the person is able to get rid of all the other objects, ideas and thoughts out of his mind. By doing this, the person feels relaxed.
7. Deep breathing– Diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, deep breathing or costal breathing is the act of breathing by contracting one’s diaphragm creating room for the lungs to expand down, rather than laterally through the expansion of the rib cage. This deep breathing is marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing. It is generally considered a healthier and fuller way to ingest oxygen, and is often used as a therapy for hyperventilation and stress.
Some breath therapists and breathing teachers believe that because of the increasing stress of modern life and the resulting over-stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, as well as of the idealized hard, flat belly, many people carry excessive tension in the belly, chest, and back, which makes it difficult for the diaphragm to move freely through its full range of motion. During stress and anger, we tend to inhale and hold our breath. The most significant, therapeutic aspect of this breathing is the exhalation – which is at least twice the length of the inhalation. The exhalation alerts the body that it can relax and resume essential body functions and not remain in a state of “fight or flight”.
8. Yoga Nidra – It is a sleep-like state that occurs with practitioners of meditation. It includes relaxation and guided visualization techniques as well as the psychology of dream, sleep and yoga. The practice of yoga relaxation has been found to reduce the autonomic symptoms of high anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating.
9. Spending time in nature – Nature can help reduce a person’s stress, as well as improve attention. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) asserts that people can concentrate better after spending time in nature, or even looking at scenes of nature. Natural environments abound with “soft fascinations” which a person can reflect upon in “effortless attention”, such as clouds moving across the sky, leaves rustling in a breeze or water bubbling over rocks in a stream. The theory was developed by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in 1980. The theory states that attention may be “restored” by changing to a different kind of task that uses different parts of the brain, as in the familiar idiom “a change is as good as a rest”.