Stress Management

Stress can be thought of as an internal response to external stimuli that results in a bodily respond to life demands, though there are emotional and mental aspects of stress as well. Major life transitions and daily tasks alike have the ability to induce a stress response in individuals. 

The stress response is an evolutionary mechanism to deal with physical threats, causing a cascade of hormonal changes in the body that lead to increased blood flow, clotting, elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. This response is largely uncontrollable, and individuals affected by high stress levels can experience these physical aspects of stress multiple times in a day. 

What are some symptoms of stress?

Symptoms of stress come in 3 categories: physical, mental, and emotional. An individual can experience symptoms in one category or multiple categories. Some of the symptoms include...


  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Acne


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addictions and/or compulsions
  • Substance abuse 


  • Irritability 
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Overwhelm

What causes stress?

Stress does not have to be caused by a negative event. Positive life experiences can be just as stress-inducing as negative ones. A lot of events that can trigger stress, including losing a job/starting a job, experiencing a loss, and being diagnosed with a serious illness are all normal parts of life. Stress becomes easier to manage in smaller doses, especially when other factors lessen the effects. 

What are unhealthy coping mechanisms for stress?

Individuals may utilize coping mechanisms, which are responses that develop over time to help someone deal with an overwhelming external force, to manage their stress. However, some of these coping mechanisms actually magnify the negative effects of stress instead of reducing them. These potentially harmful methods of coping can include drinking excessive alcohol, smoking, emotional eating, gambling, etc. Therapy can be used to identify what healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms look like for a client's specific situation and history. The reason for using unhealthy coping mechanisms sometimes is that they lessen the  physical/mental/emotional pain that is caused by stress. However, over time, continued self-medication and self-soothing can lead to a reliance on these things for stress relief. 

What does counseling for stress management look life?

When stress begins to negatively affect life outcomes, such as lack of pleasure/relaxation, drug abuse, and chronic illness and pain, it can be useful to seek out guidance. Therapy helps client recognize their stress, their triggers for stress, and the situations surrounding their stressful situations that may be able to be altered. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often effective for stress. CBT can aid in changing negative thought patterns that can develop because of stress. It can be used to help people find new ways of thinking about events that cause stress. Mindfulness-based therapies can also help with stress, such as DBT and ACT. 

Stress can also come from other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, PTSD, or addictions, which can be addressed in therapy. 

What are some tips for managing stress?

  • Body --- deep breathing; exercise; taking a nap; taking a walk; listening to music 
  • Mind --- reality testing negative thoughts and catastrophic thinking; planning and organizing; focusing on positive life events; meditating
  • Emotions --- expressing stressful emotions through a different medium, such as art or writing; talking about stressful events with a trusted individual; engaging in a hobby

Here at Madrigal, we are committed to helping you through stress to reach your best potential. 

*This information was adapted from Good Therapy. Click here to learn more information.*