|   Answering your mental health questions

How Does Stress Management Counseling Work?

Everyone experiences stress sometimes, and a little stress can be a good thing in terms of personal productivity and goal-setting, or in the anticipation of big events such as a wedding or birth of a child.

Chronic stress, on the other hand, can have significantly damaging effects on your mental and physical well-being if not effectively managed. When your stress level is elevated for a prolonged period of time and/or is beyond what you can reasonably handle on your own, seeing a stress management counselor or therapist is an excellent option. The role of this type of mental health care professional is to help you identify the stressors in your life and implement effective ways of dealing with them and the stress they bring.

Approaches to Stress Management Therapy

Many therapists approach stress management treatment through a common kind of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. During CBT sessions, you will talk with your therapist about the things in your life that you feel are contributing to your chronic stress. You and your therapist will work together first to recognize any negative or distorted thought processes you have that may be contributing to your stress or to your reaction to the stressors, and then to actively replace those thought processes with more accurate and constructive ways of thinking.

Did You Know?

Nuts and black tea seem to have natural stress-reduction properties. When consumed regularly, both have been shown to help maintain lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, even after a stressful event.

If certain relationships in your life seem to be a significant stressor for you, your therapist may also use another kind of psychotherapy called interpersonal therapy, which focuses on improving any problems or negative impacts the patient experiences with social interactions and personal relationships.

Also, if your therapist assesses that your stress is caused or exacerbated by another mental health issue, such as depression or an anxiety disorder, they will likely recommend additional sessions either with them or with another professional who specializes in treating that condition.

Stress Management Strategies

In addition to talk therapy, your counselor will likely engage you in both physical and mental stress-reduction techniques that you can carry with you outside their office and apply in your daily life. Some useful strategies that your therapist may recommend and practice with you include:

  • Relaxation techniques. Stress management techniques such as deep breathing and visualization of a favorite peaceful place can keep your stress level in check when you feel it start to elevate.
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is an approach to thinking in which you actively focus on and accept the present moment while letting go of anxieties associated with the past or future.
  • Journaling. Getting your thoughts and feelings out on paper in between your therapy sessions can be a valuable tool in managing your stress.
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