Stress can be defined as the psychological and physiological conditions that a person experiences when they perceive a situation as threatening, harmful, or demanding. This sections deals with the many aspects of stress and offers tips on how to relieve it.

for more information on stress

How much do you think you can control?

How Effective You Think You Are

Imagine that two people were thrown into the water. One is a lifeguard and the other doesn 't know how to swim. The lifeguard has the resources to handle being thrown in the water and can effectively cope with it. The person who never learned to swim is extremely upset, feels out of control, and has no idea how to cope with his problem.

In this situation, the lifeguard can effectively handle her situation whereas the other person cannot. Our belief about how effective we are is called self efficacy. People's self efficacy helps determine their emotional reaction and their coping in a stressful situation.

Amount of Control

Everyone has their own beliefs about how much they control in the world and how much outside factors control them. These judgments are important because when we feel things are out of our control, they are more stressful. Stress is less when we feel in control and in charge of our own destinies. In short, we truly do create our own realities. If we think the world is awful and unfair, it is. If we think we're lucky, we are. Our perceptions are based on the world around us, so there is a relationship between our perceptions and what happens to us.

Still our perceptions are not always accurate. Healthy people tend to think they are more effective than they actually are compared to other people and depressed people tend to think they are worse and make negative judgments about the world. But the benefit to thinking you are more effective than you actually are is that you are more likely to try hard, take risks, and succeed (which then reinforces the belief that you are effective.)

Relaxation Techniques

To try a relaxation technique on your own, simply follow one of these sets of directions.

Mental Imagery Relaxation

As you focus on your mental image more and more, you direct your attention away from anxiety provoking situations.

- Close your eyes.

-Breathe deeply and slowly.

- Think of a place where you feel entirely safe and comfortable. Your place should be real, such as a childhood tree fort or a waterfall you once visited. It could be imagined, like a lush deserted island or in a castle high above the clouds.

- What does that place look like? What sorts of things are in your special place?

- What does that place sound like?

- Breathe deeply.

- Does your place have a particular smell? Imagine that smell.

- What does your place feel like? What is the temperature? Is it sunny or dark? Humid or dry?

- Your special place will always be somewhere you can go whenever you are scared or sad. You can also go there to simply relax.

Physical Relaxation

By learning to relax your body, you can concentrate on feeling good and dealing with unpleasant emotions and experiences.

- Sit or lay comfortably.

- Close your eyes.

- Breathe slowly and deeply

- Concentrate on feeling the air move in and out of your body

- Concentrate on your toes. Relax them. Feel all the tension leave your toes, one by one.

- Feel yourself breathe slowly and deeply.

- Relax your feet. All the tension in your feel is disappearing.

- Now the tension in your calves in disappearing.

- You are breathing deeply.

- A soothing feeling is rising through your legs through your knees to your thighs.

- You legs are completely relaxed and free of tension.

- Breathe deeply. Feel the air glide through you.

- Now your pelvis is relaxing. The muscles are growing free of tension.

- The soothing feeling is moving through your buttocks. Feel your buttocks relax.

- The muscles in your belly relax now.

- Feel yourself breathing deeply as the tension in the lower half of your body disappears.

- Now the tension in your back begins to disappear starting from the bottom and working upwards.

- The soothing feeling wraps around your chest and neck and extends down your arms.

- All tension leaves your arms and hands. You are feeling very relaxed now.

- All the while you are breathing deeply.

- All the muscles in your neck relax.

- Then the soothing feeling moves through your face.

- All of your facial muscles relax as you breathe deeply and feel the tension disappearing from your body.

- You are now completely relaxed. Your body and mind feel free and without tension. All of the bad feelings are gone.