National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

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Stress

Stress is a physical and emotional reaction that people experience as they encounter changes in life. Stress is a normal feeling. 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 relaxation techniques (also called relaxation response techniques) to release tension and to counteract the ill effects of stress. Relaxation techniques often combine breathing and focused attention on pleasing thoughts and images 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. Mind and body practices, such as meditation and yoga, are also sometimes considered relaxation techniques.