National Institutes of Health • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Stress and Relaxation Techniques
Stress is a physical and emotional reaction that people experience as they encounter changes in life. Occasional stress is a normal coping mechanism. However, long-term stress may contribute to or worsen a range of health problems including digestive disorders, headaches, sleep disorders, and other symptoms. Stress may worsen asthma and has been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
Some people use various relaxation techniques to induce the relaxation response, which helps release tension and may counteract the ill effects of stress. Relaxation techniques often combine breathing exercises and focused attention to calm the mind and the body. Some examples of relaxation response techniques are autogenic training, biofeedback, deep breathing, guided imagery, progressive relaxation, and self-hypnosis.
This issue provides information on “what the science says” about relaxation techniques for several stress-related disorders, including anxiety, depression, headaches, asthma, heart disease and heart symptoms, high blood pressure, insomnia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Information for Your Patients
NCCAM Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH, DHHS. NCCAM Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on CAM, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCAM-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training CAM researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCAM's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCAM Web site at nccam.nih.gov. NCCAM is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.
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