“Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems” (1). NHS UK
In an age where society focuses on psychology, CBT also gave us the foundations for the modern-day Stress Management courses. “Stress” here means depression and anxiety.
For those who feel they would benefit from the above course, it is highly effective in many ways. Firstly because it centers on a room of people, nameless people who may or may not be experiencing anxiety or depression in the same way as you. The idea is to identify those manifestations of your own “stress”, out of a real eclectic bag of symptoms. The ultimate aim being that using given methods, proven to alleviate various symptoms of stress, you will develop the tools necessary to help yourself through your personal stress.
There are many ways we might find to “overcome” (for want of a better word) stress. These might range from self-help books, courses, or a walk. This article outlines the main points of stress-release advice, given in a Stress Management course run by the NHS.
Stress leaves many traces all over our bodies, for instance it can be manifested via tight stomach knots. The connection between the body and stress relates to our innate “fight or flight” response to perceived dangers. Numerous relaxation methods can alleviate the effect of stress on our bodies. One method is to place your hands your on torso with the middle fingers of both hands slightly touching, and concentrate on your breathing so you can feel your hands moving up and down. Stress can mean we breathe irregularly; using the top of our chests. The aim of the above exercise is to lessen stress by refocusing our breathing so we breathe “normally”. Another stress-relief method is to “scrunch” various parts of your body (for instance your feet) for a few seconds, before un-clenching. This exercise has the effect of a deeper relaxation.
In many contexts there is a natural process of “cause and effect”. When it comes to stress it is the act of thinking which causes the effect of physical reactions. The thinking which can follow a negative idea can worsen your stress. On a related point the NHS Stress Management course gives you questions to ask yourself which aim to stop you having a negative thought spiral; questions designed to allow you to ultimately step back so you can see the initial negative thought positively. An example given to illustrate this is of a nervous speaker who sees someone yawn: the speaker assumes they are “not doing well”, when the yawner might simply be tired. It is also possible to lessen the effect of your negative thoughts by confronting something which makes you stressed, and in some cases you may discover that thing is not as bad as you think. An example the NHS course gives is when you think about an event, and the thought of going makes you anxious. Upon reflection, after going, you might find the event wasn’t so stressful after all.
A good night’s sleep is of course a must. It’s advised that to achieve this you shouldn’t: eat a large meal, sleep in a room with a window open, talk to someone before you sleep who may make you feel worse, sleep in a light or noisy room, or drink tea before bed. If you’ve tried cutting out the above and still can’t get a decent kip, the NHS Stress Management course tells you how to retrain your body clock so you do get a successful sleep. This starts with going to bed when you feel tired, and ends with waking up at the same time each day to an alarm. Another point to mention is that there is no “right” amount of time to spend sleeping each night. In addition the NHS course facilitators tell you about mobile apps that measure sleep-hours, and suggest you keep a log of sleeping patterns.
For those who find body-relaxing, thought-changing, and sleeping exercises are insufficient at helping to reduce their stress, there is the option of medications. Indeed a course slide proclaims that around 40% of the UK currently uses anti-depressants. Though as the NHS course facilitators reiterate, these work best as a short-term solution.
Many experience anxiety and depression during their life. Stress Management courses have their place in some people’s stress-relief, though it might be ineffective for others. I hope this article has explained the kind of information you are likely to get during a Stress Management course, for those considering going on one. I also hope the above exercises and ideas can help ease stress manifestations, for those readers who are experiencing them.
Sources: 1. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cognitive-behavioural-therapy/Pages/Introduction.aspx