Managing Stress

techniques for managing stress

April has been named National Stress Awareness Month to bring attention to the negative impacts stress has on both our body and mind.
Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems. Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body.
Chronic stress can cause the muscles to be in a more or less constant state of guardedness. When muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time, this may trigger other reactions in the body and even promote stress-related disorders. Psychological stressors can also exacerbate breathing problems for people with pre-existing respiratory diseases such as asthma, COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis and can contribute to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels. The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate and the elevated levels of stress hormones and blood pressure can take a toll on the body. This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke. As the autonomic nervous system continues to trigger physical reactions, it causes a wear-and-tear on the body.
Developing strategies to effectively manage stress can improve mental and physical well-being and can prevent health-related issues from becoming worse. While at times we might not recognize the signs of stress it is helpful to be aware of the common symptoms of stress so as to address them before they become more intense. Some common physical signs of stress include difficulty breathing, panic attacks, sleep problems, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches, chest pains, high blood pressure, indigestion or heartburn. Common psychological symptoms of stress include feeling irritable, angry, impatient or wound up, over-burdened or overwhelmed, anxious or afraid, or consumed by feelings of dread, loneliness, or depression. Existing mental health problems often get worse due to stress.
Below are a few techniques for managing stress:

Guided Meditation

Use guided meditation to distract yourself from the stress of day-to-day life. There are many guided meditations available online and meditation has been proven to decrease stress. Here is an article from the Mayo Clinic about the benefits of meditation for managing stress.

Deep Breathing

Practice deep breathing to reduce the activation of your sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body's response of fight or flight to a perceived threat. Deep breaths taken in for a count of five seconds, held for two seconds and released for a count of five seconds, can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system to rest and digest, which helps reduce stress and anxiety.

Physical Exercise & Nutrition

Maintain physical exercise and good nutrition, two important components in how you respond to stress. Physical exercise is proven to be a great stress reliever and also helps to improve your overall quality of life. Nutrition is important because stress can deplete certain vitamins, such as A, B complex, C and E.

Avoid excessive alcohol

Drinking disrupts sleep and minimize all fluid intake 1-2 hours before bed to help prevent frequent trips to the bathroom at night.


Connect with others - humans are social beings and connections with others help us to feel supported. Finding a sense of community and enjoying shared activities allows you to find support and foster relationships that can be extremely helpful in difficult times. Read this article by Verywellmind about the power of social connections in eliminating stress:

Improve Your Sleep

Waking up in the middle of the night or having trouble falling asleep are common when we are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. View a list of tips that can help improve your sleep at: cynthiahealthcoach.com.

About the Author

Cynthia Conigliaro
Cynthia Conigliaro is the Sales and Marketing Director for Organizational Wellness and Learning Systems (OWLS), a consulting firm focused on employee emotional wellbeing and organizational culture analysis.  For almost five years she has worked alongside the owner of OWLS to design and implement mental health related employee wellness trainings and workshops for organizations across the United States.
For almost 15 years she has had her own health and wellness coaching business.  Cynthia works with individuals and groups and runs virtual and in person workshops for employees on a variety of health and wellness topics relating to both physical and mental health. She is an Infinite Possibilities Certified Trainer and a Resilience and Life Coach. She has been a volunteer with the Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts (WWCMA) for the past 4 years where she sits on both the Programs Committee and the Marketing Committee. Cynthia has her Master of Social Work and her Master of Business Administration from Boston College and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Minor in Spanish from College of the Holy Cross.
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