Therapy For Stress: Does it really work?
Stress has been a recognized health risk and widespread problem for quite some time. Despite this, stress levels continue to increase across the population. Research shows that stress levels have continued to rise throughout the years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly contributed to those rising stress levels. People go to therapy for a number of different reasons, including but not limited to interpersonal relationships, mental health conditions, concerns related to family life, and life stressors. But, you might wonder, does therapy for stress really work?
The APA dictionary defines stress as “the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors.” In other words, stress is a natural response that we feel in both the body and the mind. Think about the way your heart might race when you’re nervous. That stress response is, in fact, adaptive. It would be unrealistic to try to avoid ever feeling any level of stress again, and that’s not the goal. Instead, the goal is to decrease stress levels and mitigate ongoing or extreme stress, which can be detrimental.
Why Get Therapy For Stress?
High stress levels are so common that some people look at their crushing stress and think, “there’s nothing I can do” or “well, that’s just life.” Although ongoing, pervasive stress has become normalized in society, prolonged stress has serious consequences, and it should not be “the new normal” for anyone. Potential implications of ongoing stress include but aren’t limited to:
- High blood pressure.
- An increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- An increased risk of stroke.
- An increased risk of anxiety and depression.
- Strained interpersonal relationships.
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia.
- Trouble concentrating or focusing.
- Gastrointestinal distress.
- Body aches and pain, which may become chronic.
Research shows that stress can even impact your immune functioning, leaving you more vulnerable to getting sick. Many people turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms as a way to cope with stress, which can contribute to or cause additional problems. Yet, it can feel helpless. After all, stress management is not exactly something that we’re taught. The good news is that it is possible to learn to cope with stress in a healthy, efficient way, and therapy can help.
Does Therapy For Stress Really Work?
Therapy for stress really does work. Studies show that forms of therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT, a non-invasive and generally short-term form of therapy, can help people alleviate stress and the impacts of stress. One study found that, with just ten sessions of CBT, participants experienced an improvement in both physical symptoms of stress and psychological symptoms of stress, including improved blood pressure readings, salivary cortisol, heart rate, and better self-rated scores of anger, quality of life, and other psychological or emotional markers. There are a number of different things you can do to support stress management in your life outside of or in conjunction with therapy. Yoga, nature walks, and breathing exercises, for example, are proven to be advantageous for stress management.
The bottom line is that it’s crucial to have a toolkit for coping with stress, and if your stress is prolonged, it’s important to reach out to a professional who can help. Therapy not only gives you the opportunity to vent and talk to an objective third party about what’s going on in your life, but a therapist can help you problem-solve, work on thought reframe, and find coping skills that work for you and your unique situation.
Find A Therapist
Whether you’re facing stress related to work, school, family life, or something else that’s on your mind, you don’t have to go through it alone any longer. Finding a therapist doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it may sound. To find a therapist, you can search the web, ask your primary care physician for a referral, or sign up for a reputable online therapy platform with licensed providers such as BetterHelp. Online therapy often more affordable than traditional in-person therapy or counseling is without insurance, and it allows you to get quality care from the privacy of your own home or anywhere else with a reliable internet connection. Regardless of how you find a therapist, you deserve to get the support you need and thrive, so don’t hesitate to take the first step today.