Evidence-Based Stress Management Techniques

  • Psychotherapy can be an “effective therapeutic option” for stress management.5 In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has consistently been found effective in reducing stress6,7 and alleviating a wide array of illnesses.8 Insight-motivated learning, a holistic model in which personal insights form a basis for understanding recurrent stressors and related responses, is also a promising approach.
  • Mind-body approaches: A review of evidence-based mind-body approaches8 found several mind-body techniques to be effective in stress reduction and management of stress-related health conditions—eg, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training (use of visual imagination and verbal cues to teach the body how to relax), biofeedback, guided imagery, diaphragmatic breathing, and emotional freedom technique (for those who have suffered from recent trauma).8
  • Meditation and mindfulness-based approaches: Many forms of meditation have been adapted for stress reduction. One of the most versatile, widely studied, and established meditational approaches is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).10,11 Adapted from Buddhism,12 MBSR is designed to teach participants to become more aware of and relate differently to their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.8
  • Yoga: This ancient Indian practice consisting of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation, is well-established and supported by robust evidence for its role in stress reduction.13,14
  • Tai Chi and Qigong: Traditional Chinese exercises widely practiced for stress reduction and as martial arts, are effective at treating a range of physical health conditions, and at improving health-related quality of life.15,16,17
  • Exercise: Physical activity is increasingly recognized as improving psychological well-being.18 Several meta-analyses have found it effective in reducing stress and improving quality of life.19,20 Websites for the American College of Sports Medicine’s position statement21 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)22 are helpful resources for clinicians seeking to recommend exercise to patients.
  • Psychoeducation: Especially brief interventions have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing stress.23,24
  • Additional stress management techniques include reading, music, gardening, dancing, and humor.5


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Although research into stress and health outcomes is increasing, it still challenges the traditional “medical model” that has historically separated body and mind, without recognizing “interactive effects.”2 Improving training, developing clinical guidelines for routine stress management, and raising awareness will contribute to improving this gap.2