What is Stress Management?


Stress management is a specific type of therapy aimed at helping people learn the insights, tools, strategies, and techniques necessary to better manage stress and anxiety. What is stress for one person many not be for another. Based on our unique genetics and personal histories we have different thresholds for what we can tolerate and how long we can tolerate it for. 

We have unique and deeply personal reasons why we put ourselves through what we do. Our approach honors these differences and helps people to learn their own stories and how to better manage stress based on each person’s specific challenges. We call this Depth-Oriented Stress Management, an approach we have developed here in our group over the last 10 years that brings together psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, and mindfulness approaches.

You may find yourself stressed for a number of reasons that aren’t obvious on the surface but that you will come to discover when popping the hood on the problem with a psychologist. In my experience, people are willing to subject themselves to terrible amounts of stress in the service of meeting other psychological needs. We stress ourselves to feel, to not feel, to validate, to avoid shame, to manage fear, to solve an unsolvable problem, to avoid intimacy, to validate our own existence, to compete, to gain esteem, to impress, to secure, to punish ourselves, etc. Another driving factor is also repression. Pushing away feelings or not honoring and acknowledging them fully is stress.

Stop and ask yourself. Why do I live in ways that hurt myself? Why do I have trouble taking care of myself? Where did I learn how to do this? Do I actually know how? What causes me to live in chronic stress and re-manufacture a painful existence day after day? When did this begin? What factors are at play here? Which emotions do I push down and away? What have I been avoiding? 

Addressing the roots of the problem, the pathological fuel, in conjunction with learning the skills and insights to down-regulate our chronic fight-or-flight state, through learning to care for ourselves, is the path towards success.

Let me explain a little further with an example or two. Take for instance, the relentless workaholic who knows he shouldn’t work like this, is burnt out, but cannot seem to stop. He claws forward to pay a self-esteem-debt that he does not really owe. He strangely prides himself in his pain, its an identity, putting in an insane amount of hours to temporarily patch the emotional hole originating from early childhood. A home in which he received little/no validation, parents who were preoccupied with their own troubles or on the other end he was only recognized/loved in his achievements, the way he covered the family shame. In his eyes, to work with fever is to be loved. They feel inseparable. But if only he could know this.

Take another example. The woman who played the mediator to a turbulent family growing up. Put in the middle of all the family disputes and served to stabilize the family system. In the process, she learned that being there for everyone else assures her safety, provides an identity, and guarantees a sense of worth and belonging – as she continues to say yes. As an adult, she has become the go-to friend for support and only know how to offer herself in this way. Relationships are emotionally lopsided and she is quietly resentful about this. She dares not express this for fear of retaliation or abandonment. Unfortunately, because of the inverse principle of their childhood conditioning, acknowledging their own needs and seeking support themselves has become taboo, synonymous with abandonment, with losing love. 

She arrives to therapy exhausted. Empty. Lost. Scared. Their primary complaint is fatigue, IBS, and stress, to which her only self-care is overeating. She wants the therapists help in figuring out how to manage stress in her life. “There’s just got to be some techniques you can teach me so I can keep supporting everyone I love, I know I am not this weak.” We help her face the loss of her childhood, the early parentification, what everyone else calls “the old soul”, the family grooming into a role that made the dysfunctional into functional, at her expense. We help her work through it all, and in the process seamlessly integrate concepts of self-love, worthiness, and boundaries. She learns these for the first time. We help her to care for herself through the word “no”, through boundaries, exercise, meditation, and learning to accept and enjoy support. To trust that in receiving care and support she not only won’t be abandoned but even more connected.

As you can see, psychological issues start with a simple complaint but we are incredibly complex. To solve these issues, you must take a deep dive into the problem and peel back the layers of the onion. These are great examples of the kind of work we do, although insanely abbreviated versions of the real story. We provide stress management therapy that changes lives. We aren’t in the business of patching holes; we want to help you heal entirely.

Why is it important to manage stress?

Short-term stress is good, it prepares the body for focus, concentration, and action. External and internal cues trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) and we engage our fight-or-flight sympathetic system. This is a great when, say, you are needing to escape danger or finish some project in its final moments. However, when you suffer from chronic stress, your body continues to produce those hormones, which disrupts nearly every system in your body and triggers a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Irritability
  • Clumsiness or becoming accident-prone
  • Headaches
  • Muscular tension
  • Reduced concentration and decision-making skills
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Increased blood pressure

Continuous release of cortisol has been linked to the breakdown of telomeres – the caps at the end of chromosomes which house our DNA and prevent them from becoming frayed or tangled. If the telomeres get too short, the cells can no longer divide and this process is associated with cancer, aging, and a higher risk of death. Stress is directly linked to the degradation of our physical and mental health. It could be the single causal link between our psychology and out biology. If you are interested in the science linking stress and health check out the Netflix documentary “Stress: The portrait of a killer” by famous neuroendocrine researcher Dr. Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University.

The team at Keil Psych Group would love to hear from you. Give us a call, text, or email using the contact information listed on the site. We would love to help you get stress under control and heal things from the roots up.