• By Laurel Kelly

Consumer Health: Mental health and managing stress

May 18, 2022
a man resting his head on his hands, holding a pen at work and looking sad, depressed or stressed in the office

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes this a good time to learn about managing stress.

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. A small amount of stress can be good, motivating you to perform well. When used positively, stress can lead to growth, action and change. But negative, long-term stress can lessen your quality of life and put your health at risk.

One of the first steps toward good stress management is understanding how you react to stress — and making changes if necessary. Take a look at how you react to stress, and then adopt or modify stress management techniques to make sure the stress in your life doesn't lead to health problems.

Relaxation techniques are a great way to help with stress management. Relaxation isn't only about peace of mind or enjoying a hobby. Relaxation is a process that decreases the effects of stress on your mind and body.

In general, relaxation techniques involve refocusing your attention on something calming and increasing awareness of your body. It doesn't matter which relaxation technique you choose. What matters is that you try to practice relaxation regularly to reap its benefits.

Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and it originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.

There are many forms of meditation, but most have in common a quiet setting, a comfortable position, focused attention and an open attitude.

Spending even a few minutes in meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit your emotional well-being and overall health. And these benefits don't end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and may help you manage the symptoms of certain medical conditions.

Connect with others talking about mental health and stress management in the Mental Health support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.