It is not possible, nor would it be healthy, to eliminate all stress from a person’s life. However, learning to manage and seek assistance in coping with stress can reduce the mental burden caused by stressful situations. Successful stress treatment may include medications, therapy or learning stress management techniques. By learning to manage stress, the risk of experiencing a setback can be reduced.
Medications for Stress
Medications for stress are generally not the first course of action in stress treatment. However, if stress is preventing a person from being able to function in their day-to-day life, that may be a sign of a depressive disorder or anxiety disorder. In these cases, a doctor may prescribe medications to help with symptom relief.
- Antidepressants: A person with depression often experiences low energy, lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can only add to feelings of being overwhelmed associated with stress. A person with depression may have a harder time coping with stress. An antidepressant medication such as Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Prozac or Lexapro may be prescribed for these people.
- Anti-Anxiety Medications: Chronic stress can easily turn into anxiety. For a person with an anxiety disorder stress can feel paralyzing. In some cases, added stress may increase the likelihood of experiencing a panic attack. It may be beneficial to take an anti-anxiety medication for some patients.
In many cases, an antidepressant with anti-anxiety properties, such as Zoloft, will be tried first. While benzodiazepines may be very effective at reducing anxiety, they carry the risk of addiction. For this reason, if an antidepressant does not effectively treat anxiety and stress other medications, such as Vistaril, may be considered before a benzodiazepine.
Therapy for stress can be very helpful, especially when episodic acute stress is the issue. The simple act of talking to another person about stressors can be helpful, and speaking with a professional can be even more helpful.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on making changes in a person’s thinking processes and behaviors to change feelings. By changing the way a person thinks about and reacts to situations, the change may reduce that person’s stress. This approach may also work on assisting with time management skills, if appropriate.
- Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy consists of placing a person in a highly stressful or anxiety-producing situation and allowing them to build a tolerance to the feeling of stress. This process is usually done in gradual steps. For example, if a person has a phobia of spiders, they may first imagine a spider, then look at a picture of a spider and keep building up to having live spiders on their body. This approach is highly effective but often has low retention rates due to people fearing they will not be able to cope with exposure.
Alternative Stress Management Techniques
The goal of many alternative stress management techniques is to consciously activate the body’s natural relaxation response. Many of these techniques provide the best results when done regularly and may not provide full results initially.
- Deep Breathing: Deep breathing is one of the simplest stress-management techniques. It can be used anywhere at any time. There are many deep-breathing exercises that can be used. However, all that is necessary is to consciously slow your breathing and focus on deep breaths.
- Exercise: Exercise not only helps keep the body in good condition but also can help keep the mind in good condition. Exercise releases natural chemicals in the brain that reduce feelings of stress, improve mood, and increase energy. Exercise can also improve sleep which may help reduce stress.
- Eating Healthy: What a person eats influences both physical and mental health. Nutrition influences brain chemicals that affect mood and stress vulnerability. Promoting good health through proper nutrition can improve energy levels and sleep, which may also contribute to reduced stress.
- Meditation: Meditation does not necessarily mean sitting on the floor in an empty room. Meditation can be done anywhere, at any time. Meditation helps a person to focus their attention on the present moment and clear their mind of stressful thoughts. Meditation may be difficult to practice at first. Trying guided techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation may be helpful when first practicing meditation. It may also be helpful to repeat a word or mantra to center thoughts.
If you or a loved one struggles with stress management and substance use, help is available. The Recovery Village has facilities across the country with professionals who can help you get your life back on track. Check out our tips on how to relieve stress without using drugs or alcohol and reach out to a representative today for more information on our programs.
NCCIH. “5 Things To Know About Relaxation Techniques for Stress.” September 24, 2015. Accessed on February 7, 2019.
Mental Health America. “Eat Well.” February 4, 2014. Accessed on February 7, 2019.
ADAA. “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety.” (n.d.). Accessed on February 7, 2019.
NIH: News in Health. “Feeling Stressed?” December, 2014. Accessed on February 7, 2019.