What are the general guidelines for reducing stress?
Perhaps the best general approach for treating stress can be found in the elegant passage by Reinhold Niebuhr, “Grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The process of learning to control stress is life-long, and will not only contribute to better health, but a greater ability to succeed in one’s own agenda.
When to Seek Professional Help for Stress
Stress can be a factor in a variety of physical and emotional illnesses, which should be professionally treated. Many stress symptoms are mild and can be managed by over the counter medications (eg, aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen for tension headache and antacids and anti-diarrhea medications or laxatives for mild stomach distress). A physician should be consulted, however, for physical symptoms that are out of the ordinary, particularly those which progress in severity or awaken one at night. A mental health professional should be consulted for unmanageable acute stress or for severe anxiety or Depression. Often short-term therapy can resolve stress-related emotional problems.
- First, no single method is uniformly successful: a combination of approaches is generally most effective.
- Second, what works for one person does not necessarily work for someone else.
- Third, stress can be positive as well as negative. Appropriate and controllable stress provides interest and excitement and motivates the individual to greater achievement, while a lack of stress may lead to boredom and Depression.
- Finally, stress may play a part in making people vulnerable to illness. A physician or psychologist should be consulted if there are any indications of accompanying medical or psychologic conditions, such as cardiac symptoms, significant pain, anxiety, or Depression.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD