Do Stress Management Programs Work?

Stress does not respect age, gender, wealth, ethnicity, ability, IQ, EG, the great, the good or anything else for that matter!  Everyone I know suffers stress at some point in their lives.  Absolutely everyone.  And as far as I can make out, they only differ from each other in two respects: the extent to which they suffer and what they choose to do about it. 

But if you consider this more closely, even these two differences are actually only one difference.  Think about it.  If you suffer a lot with stress, maybe because you perceive everything you are up against to be stressful, and yet you do nothing to actively reduce it then you will remain in a highly stressed out state.  

Conversely, if you are highly stressed and you do consider it to be important enough to do something about, you will follow stress management program successfully and become less stressed.

I suppose naysayers will say something like – “just change your perception of stress”.  Deciding to be less stressed is definitely a way forward.  But have you honestly ever changed your belief system at a time of high stress?  Me either. 

Changing your belief system is not an easy process.  It takes time and energy.  And whilst you are feeling the pressure, if you perceive different situations to be stressful, you will struggle to change your perceptions. 

So actually the only difference between people who suffer continual high stress and those who come through it is the latter group’s decision to take action to reduce their stress.

And that is the million dollar answer to the question I posted at the top.  Stress management programs DO work.  But YOU have to work them.

If you’ve got any personal experiences or success stories, feel free to add them below.

The Stress “Columbo” Comment

When it comes to exercise and stress, most of us think back to past conversations we have had during visits to the doctor or physician.  You know the sort of thing.  They take our blood pressure and, noting it’s on the high side, comment that we need to take it easy and let go of some bit of our schedule before the stress kills us.  Fair enough we think.

But then they always make that last “Columbo” comment – you remember the disheveled detective from the 70s played brilliantly by Peter Falk?  Whenever the villain thought he was on the verge of getting away with it, Columbo would always turn and say “oh, there’s just one more thing..”.  POW!  You just KNEW it would be the final thing that would totally solve the case and make everything fall into place.

The doctor ALWAYS says “Oh, and doing more exercise will help”. 

So, what does exercise have to do with stress?

Well, our bodies send out chemicals, hormones that regulate how we deal with stressful situations.  We’ve all heard about adrenaline and how it’s the hormone that gives us that “fight or flight,” reaction – racing of the heart and increase in sugar output – to get us ready to run from danger or stand up and face it. 

Well the “fight or flight” response is also known as the stress response.  And we secrete adrenaline whenever we experience any kind of stress – not just real physical danger.  So, every time we have to hit the brakes fast to avoid an accident, the boss brings forward the already tight deadline by another day or our preschooler split his head open falling out a tree, our bodies go into that “fight or flight” mode.  And if we don’t discharge that adrenaline through some form of exertion, it leaves us on edge. 

Do this a dozen times a day and it will lead to adrenal exhaustion.  So, what can we do? 

Exercise. 

Even gentle exercise can imitate that “real danger encounter” and allows us to get rid of the adrenaline.  So, hit the stairs while at work.  Go for a walk in the park.  Take a brisk walk around the block.  Bop to the radio whilst at the coffee machine.  Whatever you do, learn to diffuse that stress buzz with exercise.

Your body will thank you for it!