Those that deal with the consequences of stress and those that prevent the build up of too much stress.
Sometimes the most important thing is to deal with the consequences – get relief for that headache, relief from the stomach ache etc.
But unless you want to be permanently stressed the best treatment needs to look at preventing this from happening.
Luckily lots of research has been done on this and there are well proven treatments for stress that significantly reduce the incidence of “too much stress”. They work by re-training your brain.
If you play sports seriously or are a regular visitor to the gym you will understand how effective a good training plan can be. The most effective treatments for stress work in a similar manner.
Professional and amateur athletes train their bodies to perform better and reduce the chance of injury. They spend time practising technique carefully so when the effort level increases the technique happens effortlessly.
Learning to walk as a toddler is another good example – it takes a lot of effort for toddlers and those with spinal injuries to learn or re-learn to walk yet most of us can run without thinking.
Toddlers have the time and determination to motivate themselves to continuously train until they can walk then run. After a serious accident many need help to re-learn these basic skills. They need help re-wiring the connections between brain and legs so that initially they can walk with thought and then subconsciously without thought.
Athletes use the same to get better and be the best. A personal trainer will help improve technique and initially this is slow and thought though, but gradually with training becomes natural and effortless, allowing the athlete to perform at a higher level.
The most successful treatment for stress uses a very similar technique, except you are training your mind and not your legs.
When someone is stressed they will often be stuck in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and unable on their own to get out of this cycle.
There is a treatment called Cognitive Restructuring that is part of CBT (Cognitive behavioural Therapy) that has been proven as effective treatment for stress. It provides the structured training of your mind so that you yourself are able to both get out of the vicious cycle of negative thoughts, but also to prevent going back there.
The process is very similar to the process athletes go through with a trainer. The trainer helps establish the best technique. When coping with stress, the counsellor or therapist provides the same role in helping you establish a good technique.
If you are seriously stressed, on the edge of a breakdown or feeling very depressed you may be more like the person who needs to re-learn to walk. The thought processes in your brain may need external help to start the re-learning process as you just cannot do it yourself.
So CBT is really a training plan for your mind. You learn the technique and apply it slowly and clumsily at first. But gradually this becomes second nature, just as walking did. At this stage your stress or depression will have temporarily gone. But what if you fall down? You need to learn to get back up again. The same applies to your mind and CBT helps here as well and you will learn techniques to deal with this.