October 24, 2017

Behavioral Medicine & Stress Management

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”

~ Hans Selye


Psychologist NH | Behavioral Medicine | Psychologist NHBehavioral Medicine deals with what people do that affects their health and how different illnesses affect a person’s behavior. Treatment typically involves changing habits. These may involve thought patterns, how one deals with stress, time management or anger. Change is always hard. CBT psychologists help people make these changes with psychotherapy, behavior modification, physiological feedback and problem solving.

Living with any chronic or serious illness can have negative effects on emotions and behavior. Problems with depression, anxiety, anger, relationships and low self-esteem are common. CBT psychologists offer treatments for these problems using a variety of therapies such as stress management, problem-solving, cognitive-behavioral, and insight-oriented. Treatment focuses on helping people to improve their ability to cope with their illness, learn techniques to decrease anxious and depressing thought patterns, and improve their ability to enjoy life.

The following information has been provided with the kind permission of the University  of Virginia Health System and Mind Tools. Read more at www.healthsystem.virginia.edu or www.mindtools.com.

Stress can cause or aggravate many physical symptoms and medical problems. Therapy for stress management has four major goals:

  1. Reduce physical symptoms and body tension caused by stress
  2. Decrease stress – producing thought patterns
  3. Decrease negative emotions and relationship problems caused by stress
  4. Reduce the amount of stress with which one has to cope

Techniques such as stress-monitoring, problem-solving, and relaxation training are utilized, along with cognitive-behavioral therapy and assertiveness training. Therapy often involves using problem-solving techniques to reduce the actual level of stress in daily life.

The most commonly accepted definition of stress (mainly attributed to Richard S Lazarus) is that stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.

People feel little stress when they have the time, experience and resources to manage a situation. They feel great stress when they think they can’t handle the demands put upon them. Stress is therefore a negative experience. And it is not an inevitable consequence of an event: It depends a lot on people’s perceptions of a situation and their real ability to cope with it.

From this definition, you can see that there are three major approaches that we can use to manage stress:

Action-oriented, in which we seek to confront the problem causing the stress, changing the environment or the situation. Action-oriented approaches work best where you have some control. To be able to take an action-oriented approach, we must have some power in the situation. If we do, then action-oriented approaches are some of the most satisfying and rewarding ways of managing stress. These are techniques that we can use to manage and overcome stressful situations, changing them to our advantage.

Emotionally-oriented, in which we do not have the power to change the situation, but we can manage stress by changing our interpretation of the situation and the way we feel about it. Emotionally-oriented approaches are subtle but effective. If you do not have the power to change a situation, then you may be able to reduce stress by changing the way you look at it, using an emotionally-oriented approach. Emotionally-oriented approaches are often less attractive than action-oriented approaches in that the stresses can recur time and again; however, they are useful and effective in their place.

Acceptance-oriented, where something has happened over which we have no power and no emotional control, and where our focus is on surviving the stress. Acceptance-oriented approaches are necessary when there’s no valid alternative. Sometimes, we have so little power in a situation that all we can do to survive it. This is the case, for example, when loved-ones die. In these situations, often the first stage of coping with the stress is to accept one’s lack of power. Stress management can help you build buffers against stress that help you through these difficult periods. Relaxation techniques also fall into this category.

These different approaches to stress management address our definition of stress in different ways: the action-oriented techniques help us to manage the demands upon us and increase the resources we can mobilize; the emotionally oriented techniques help us to adjust our perceptions of the situation; and the acceptance-oriented techniques help us survive the situations that we genuinely cannot change.

I may be able to help if you are experiencing stress that may or may not be causing or aggravating a physical symptom or medical problem. I would like to talk with you about your situation. Please call me at 603-448-3588. You may also use my e-mail and my address is Karen@Psychologist-NH.com.