Stress is the body’s physical, mental and emotional reaction to the demands of daily life. It develops as a learned response to external pressure and is experienced in numerous ways. While many people manage stress through exercise, meditation and travel, others may have trouble coping and require help from a mental health professional.

Health Effects of Stress

Most people suffer from some degree of stress during their lives. For some, it can become a chronic condition and manifest in the following ways:

• Increased or decreased appetite

• Hypersomnia or insomnia

• Reduced work productivity

• Lack of sexual intimacy

• Lack of interest in social activities

• Chronic headaches and other body pain

• Depression, anxiety and anger

• Stroke and heart attack

While most of these symptoms resolve as a stressful situation improves, they may become very serious in some people. In those cases, consulting with a physician may become necessary.

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Stress Therapy
Stress can become so severe that a person may resort to abusing drugs to alleviate chronic pain or become unable to relax and enjoy life in any way. This is where a mental health professional can provide guidance and treatment to help an individual work through the issues that are causing the stress.

Cognitive behavior therapy is a therapeutic method that encourages a person to think differently about specific situations. By replacing the negative feedback patterns, the individual can learn better coping behaviors and reduce the effects of stress on their body and mind.

Life events such as a death, a divorce, the loss of a job or a dire medical diagnosis will also cause stress. An experienced therapist will encourage the person to talk about their thoughts and feelings, making them feel heard and understood. This alone can substantially reduce stress symptoms. When there is a family or marital problem, counseling everyone together and giving each person a chance to speak without interruption can improve the communication in relationships and make them less stressful.

Stress Management Techniques
While in counseling, a person can reduce their stress at home by using deep breathing techniques, exercising or sitting in a warm bath. The individual can also refocus their thoughts in a more positive direction. Talking with a friend, working in a garden, meditating and caring for a pet are other ways of keeping the mind occupied instead of worried.

The majority of people find a constructive outlet for their stress, but those who are struggling or even ill should consult with a therapist to improve their quality of life.

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