It’s hard to find a person these days who doesn’t experience stress on a daily basis. While adaptive coping mechanisms are available for daily stressors, it is often difficult to not become overwhelmed with stress.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines stress as “the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors.” Generally, any type of change in the external environment or inside our bodies and minds that leads to physical, psychological, or emotional strain can be identified as stress.
Surprisingly, stress can be either positive or negative. While eustress, or positive stress, is usually caused by positive changes in our lives, distress, or negative stress, can lead to reduced psychological well-being, decreased productivity, and mental health problems.
However, studies show that counseling is an effective way to deal with stress (e.g., Riedel et al., 2017; Sahranavard et al., 2018). In this article, we’ll discuss how counseling can help you manage stress and what the most effective types of counseling are for stress management.
What Causes Stress?
The reasons for stress usually vary individually. Usually, some people might develop stress as a result of some minor changes, while others require major changes, serious problems, or unrealistic expectations to develop stress.
In psychology, external stimuli and pressures that can cause stress are called stressors. As we mentioned above, some positive changes, such as getting a new job, having children, or getting married, can also be considered stressors. However, they’re not likely to cause any health issues. On the other hand, negative stressors such as getting divorced or losing a job can lead to severe adversaries to one’s well-being.
Nevertheless, whether or not an individual experiences stress in a given situation completely depends on their subjective perception. This means that while some people naturally seek pressure to reveal their full potential, while others prefer stability to thrive. Therefore, developing stress isn’t only related to external situations, and our internal condition is no less important in the process of experiencing stress.
The most common causes of stress can be divided into two categories: internal and external stressors.
Here are some of the most prevalent internal stressors:
- Low self-esteem
- Perfectionism or unrealistic expectations
- Rigid thinking
- Uncertainty about the future
- Negative self-perception
- Negative self-talk
And these are common external stressors:
- Major life changes (e.g., death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, injury)
- Financial problems
- Relationship problems
- Health problems
- Pressure from work
- Environmental Traumas
How Can Counseling Help with Stress Management?
Even though stress is a normal part of our lives if you feel that it’s becoming more and more extensive and you can hardly find the power in yourself to deal with it, then reaching out to professional counselors might be the most functional way to overcome your condition.
It turns out that receiving therapy is an effective strategy for individuals who require help with stress management. For example, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, stress-relieving techniques developed during counseling sessions helped the students reduce stress, improve their academic performance, and improve their overall quality of life.
The most important reason why counseling is so helpful in stress management is that therapists can help clients identify the major stressors in their lives and be able to begin compartmentalizing them. And once they understand the exact factors that can lead to excessive stress, they can more easily develop adaptive strategies to deal with those stressors.
One more significant benefit of counseling is that it’s a safe place for individuals to release their emotions, talk loudly about their problems, and reflect on and understand how they feel. Counselors usually help clients understand how much depends on their thought processes during the process of dealing with stress and how to develop efficient coping strategies to avoid those unwanted thoughts.
Most importantly, counselors at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids provide specific programs based on their client’s individual needs and guide them to develop effective coping strategies so that they can deal with stress in the future, even after counseling sessions are over.
Most Effective Types of Therapy to Relieve Stress
Today, counselors use a wide range of therapy techniques in order to help people relieve stress and develop stress management strategies. Usually, the type of therapy they choose depends on the client’s conditions and needs and the severity of the stressors.
For instance, if stress is caused by a negative self-image or intrusive thoughts, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might be the best solution, while acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can be more effective for promoting a calm state of mind.
These are the most effective types of therapy to relieve stress:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – It’s the most frequently used type of counseling that aims to help people address their thoughts and behavior patterns. CBT can be effective either for short-term benefits or in the long term to help clients deal with either chronic stress, acute stress, or other mental health conditions (Ghazavi et al., 2016).
- Group therapy – Sometimes developing a social network of people with similar stressful experiences is the best way to help them deal with stress. Group therapy is led by a professional therapist who conducts sessions and provides a safe space for people to discuss their problems, and receive and provide support.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – It’s a mindfulness-based type of counseling that aims to help people deal with stressors by accepting them. Instead of fighting against stress and defeating it, counselors guide clients in developing ways to embrace their thoughts and feelings and accept them.
- Psychodynamic therapy – This type of therapy is usually used for chronic stress. It helps people identify the causes of their stress and develop effective behavioral responses to deal with stress on a long-term basis. This type of counseling is based on traditional psychodynamic principles. For many, this is simply called “talk therapy.”
Benefits of Counseling to Deal with Stress
As the latest studies prove, counseling is an effective way to help people relieve stress and acquire new abilities and skills to manage future stressors (Lohan et al., 2022). Although the benefits of counseling to deal with stress usually vary based on individual conditions, here are the most common advantages of receiving counseling in order to manage stress:
- Ability to identify stressors
- Developing adaptive coping strategies to deal with current and upcoming stressors
- Identifying positive aspects of stress
- Better self-awareness
- Exploring and understanding the root causes of stress
- Reducing stress levels and improving overall psychological well-being
All in all, it doesn’t matter how excessive your stress is and how hopeless you feel, counseling can help with stress. The crucial thing to remember is to realize when you really need help and, most importantly, to seek help without hesitation.
Our trained counselors at Health for Life Counseling in Grand Rapids, MI, and Ada, MI, are always here to help you deal with stress. Just reach out to our professional therapists in the West Michigan area or talk to them online to identify the root causes of your stress and deal with it effectively.