Stress is your body and mind's way of telling you that you feel an elevated level of arousal. The source of arousal could be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic stress means that it has originated from something within, such as becoming ill. Extrinsic stressors are usually things that arise within the environment, such as being exposed to dangerous weather conditions. Stress can present itself in a wide variety of severities and occur for short or long durations.
Stress is an evolutionary response that has both benefits and negative consequences. Stress can motivate and challenge oneself to reach their goals and serves as an essential warning system when exposed to dangerous or life-threatening situations, know as the flight-or-fight response. The perception of threat activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee. Stress can be harmful to physical and mental health and can result in a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.
Occupational therapists can help clients manage their stress using holistic strategies that look at the interactions between the person, their environment and their occupations. Several examples of how occupational therapy can help to manage stress include:
Intervene with mindfulness-based, stress-reduction techniques such as meditation
Support clients with developing behavioural adaptations.
Help identify strategies such as distraction or self-soothing to utilize when clients are feeling stress symptoms.
Educate clients about cognitive restructuring to reduce reoccurring negative thoughts.
Educate and coach energy conservation for clients experiencing chronic fatigue.
Facilitate and adapt a graduated return-to-work program.
Provide recommendations to limit or minimize the environmental source of stress
Reference: Fink, George. Encyclopedia of Stress. Elsevier Science & Technology Books, 2007.