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Stress Management Practices: What Works and What Doesn’t

Stress Management Practices: What Works and What DoesntStress is unavoidable. This statement is a fact that most people are highly aware of nowadays. Every culture in the world has some degree of stress. People of all ages and from all walks of life experience a certain degree of stress on a daily basis.

Although it is not totally detrimental, constant or repeated exposure to high levels of stress has been known to cause a number of negative physical, mental, social and emotional issues. This is why it is vital to have effective stress management practices. There is no need to worry about finding an effective way to cope with stress — many options are available. Each individual simply has to pick one he or she believes is best suited to him- or herself.

However, some people end up resorting to the wrong stress relief practices. Yes, there are wrong stress relief practices. They are capable of providing relief from the immediate emotions related to stress, but in the long run, they are bound to bring more harm than good.

Below are some examples of the most common positive and negative stress management practices.

Negative Stress Management Practices

Smoking. A lot of people have this notion that smoking has a calming effect that helps relieve tension and improve the mood. This belief is so rampant that it is common to see workplaces with smoking rooms where workers head on their breaks or in a state of agitation or stress.

But studies refute this belief. Scientists say that rather than helping smokers relax, nicotine — which is a stimulant — actually increases anxiety and tension. The relaxing effect of smoking is alleged to be a mere psychological addiction.

Emotional eating. A lot of people, especially women, find solace in a bucket of ice cream, a box of chocolates, or eating a whole pizza when they are stressed out. People commonly say that these kinds of food just magically take their stress away. But scientific studies beg to disagree. Several studies have proved that emotional eating may temporarily help ease stress, but it is bound to cause even more stress in the long run with the health problems and regret that come with extra pounds.

Drug use. Due to the need to fix problems quickly, taking medications to relieve stress seems to be an easy solution for most people. Benzodiazepines, antidepressants, buspirone and beta blockers are the most common drugs used to relieve stress. These prescription drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Long-term use of prescription medications can result in dependency or adverse side effects.

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Positive Stress Management Practices

Time management. Much stress is brought about by people’s lack of control over their lives. Effective time management helps put people in control and allows them to spend more time with their family and friends; that in turn will help reduce stress. So writing a to-do list, prioritizing tasks from most to least important, and keeping a schedule of daily activities to minimize conflicts and last-minute rushes all are vital to reducing stress levels.

Regular relaxation periods. It is important that each individual sets aside specific times each day to relax. Try not to let relaxation be at the mercy of work or family. Even short, quiet 30-minute breaks daily can do much to renew an individual’s energy and perspective. It would be best to schedule these breaks during the most stressful times in your day.

Regular exercise. Physical exercise is one of the most effective ways of relieving stress. It has both short- and long-term effects that have a positive impact on a person’s stress levels. Studies have shown that right after exercising, a surge of natural “feel good” hormones called endorphins are released. Regular physical activity improves a person’s mental and physical state and makes him or her better able to combat stress.

Healthy and balanced diet. Good nutrition is the foundation of good health and is especially important during times of stress. A person’s diet and nutrition choices can make his or her stress levels go up or down. Certain foods provide comfort and actually increase levels of the body’s stress-fighting hormones. Other types of foods and beverages can reduce stress by lowering the levels of hormones that trigger it. Although there is no diet to relieve stress, eating healthy meals and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine are the basic things to remember.

A person with unhealthy stress management practices is bound eventually to suffer grave consequences. If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it is time to change your ways and adopt the right ones. These ways may be a little difficult to follow through and may require a great deal of effort, but they will bring permanent, positive changes.

Stress Management Practices: What Works and What Doesn’t

Kara Heissman

Kara Heissman is concerned with making life better. While not a professional, she likes to share things that can help improve life. Visit Contented Life for more articles on this topic.

APA Reference
Heissman, K. (2018). Stress Management Practices: What Works and What Doesn’t. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.