Patient Perspective

Stress Management

Article Summary

Stress management is an important part of minimizing the long-term negative health outcomes of chronic stress. Talking to a counselor or therapist can be a powerful way to improve stress management. There are also a number of exercises and practices that can be included in daily life to reduce the impacts of stress.

Stress is a part of life

Stress is an automatic response for our body to protect itself from threats. This “fight or flight” sympathetic response is beneficial if you are in a life-threatening situation or require a short-term force of motivation. But, if you experience stress over a prolonged period of time, it could become chronic. Chronic stress can have serious consequences for your brain, body, and mind. In this article, you will learn relaxation techniques to help you manage stress.

How we handle stress makes a big difference. Finding what works best for you is key to helping you reduce stress. 

Relaxation can reduce stress by:

  • Decreasing heart rate
  • Decreasing blood pressure
  • Slowing respiratory rate
  • Increasing blood flow to the major muscle groups
  • Decreasing muscle tension
  • Improving concentration
  • Improving self confidence

Relaxation Techniques


Focusing the mind on a word or phrase and letting go of other thoughts.  

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Focusing on slowly tensing then relaxing each muscle group.  


Imagining yourself in a peaceful, relaxing place.  

Tips to R-E-L-A-X

    • Relaxation takes practice. Even if you aren’t conscious of feeling anything, the physiologic effects are still occurring. Tune into what your body is telling you. 
    • Find the technique that works for you. You may have to try several techniques before you find the best one for you. 
    • Don’t force it. Relaxation happens naturally.
    • Get comfortable. Sit in a chair with neck and back support, or lay on a firm bed, or try a mat on the floor. Choose a position that you can maintain for at least 10 minutes.
    • Shhhhhhhhhh. Find a quiet environment that is distraction-free.
    • Relax throughout the day. Some apps will remind you to meditate at intervals. For instance, Insight Timer ( will also show you how many other people are meditating at the same time, which can be motivating and make you feel part of a community.
    • Meditate with a group. There are many local meditation groups that can be found through
    • Try yoga or Tai chi. Many studios offer classes for beginners and/or classes for people with balance problems, including seniors and multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.
    • Pray. A growing body of research suggests prayer helps some people cope better, heal faster from illness, and experience increased health benefits and well-being.
    • Practice mindfulness. Adapt your attitude and approach to think successful and beneficial thoughts. 

By Lisa Farrell, PT, PhD, ATC 

Lisa Farrell is a physical therapist and athletic trainer in South Florida. She has been providing vestibular and balance rehabilitation for adults with various neurological pathologies since 1999. For more information about her practice, visit