Stress Awareness Month – Talking to Patients About Managing Stress

April is Stress Awareness Month. This month provides a platform to increase public awareness of the adverse effects of chronic stress on patients.

This past year, stress has become more of a burden for chronic disease patients because of coronavirus. There is no denying the world is going through challenging and uncertain times, which can elevate stress levels.

Stress Awareness Month provides an excellent opportunity for physicians to address patient stress levels and helps as a reminder to share helpful strategies with patients to manage their stress better.

Why Stress Management Matters

When a patient is first diagnosed with a chronic illness, it’s normal for them to go through a period of increased stress as they adjust to living with the disease.

Everyone experiences periodic extreme stress from different life situations related to work, family, socio-economic circumstances, and other environmental factors. However, for most chronic disease patients, their disease can be a constant source of stress, and if it goes unchecked, it can make managing their condition even more challenging.

Chronic stress can induce disease flareups, increase symptom severity, and promote disease progression, all of which can be difficult to get back under control once stress levels are reduced.

Additionally, poor stress management can lead to the development of other illnesses and gradual wear and tear of the patient’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

By teaching patients how to build their resilience to stress and sharing ways to reduce unnecessary stress from their lives, physicians can significantly reduce their overall allostatic load.

Providing patients with the right tools to deal with their stress will make managing their disease easier.

Stress Awareness Month - Talking to Patients About Managing Stress

Stress Management Techniques to Share with Patients

Identify the Sources of Stress

Chronic disease patients are more likely to experience feelings of anxiety and increased stress levels. However, because they have grown accustomed to living with these feelings, they may no longer be able to recognize the source of their stress.

Therefore, all stress management plans must start with identifying the sources of stress in your patient’s life, whether they pertain to their disease or not.

It’s easy for patients to overlook how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can contribute to everyday stress.

Empathetically pointing some of these thoughts and behaviors and teaching patients how to focus on things they can change and improve will help them regain control and encourage more positive changes.

Stress Awareness Month - Talking to Patients About Managing Stress

The Four A’s of Stress Management– Avoid, Alter, Adapt & Accept

Avoid Unnecessary Stress

Stress is inevitable. However, much of the stress patients experience can be avoided by:

  • Avoiding when possible, people who cause them unnecessary stress
  • Take control of their environment, such as limiting the amount of news they consume daily or avoid going out during peak traffic hours
  • Simplify their To-Do-Lists

Alter the Situation

Avoiding stressors won’t always be possible so alter the situation to reduce stress.

  • They need to express their feelings rather than keep them bottled up
  • Seek compromises
  • Find a balance between work, chores, and downtime

Adapt to the Stressor

Chronic disease patients are used to adapting. By learning how to adapt to the stressors in their life, they can significantly reduce their stress levels.

  • Positively reframe problems. Although not always evident, it’s possible to find something positive in almost all situations
  • Gain perspective. Ask questions such as, how important will this be in the long run? Will worrying about a situation help improve its outcome? If the answer is no, let your patients know it’s better if they focus their attention and energy elsewhere
  • Learn to adjust goals. People who have stringent standards are more susceptible to stress and can quickly become frustrated. By setting realistic goals that take into consideration their current circumstances, patients can feel more accomplished, and this can help reduce their stress


For many, their medical conditions mean they won’t be able to do all the things they used to do.

Acceptance may be difficult, but it is easier than constantly fighting against an unchangeable situation.

Incorporate Physical Activity

Exercising is a great mood enhancer and an excellent way to reduce stress. Encourage your patients to become more active.

Build a Support Group

It’s not unusual for chronic disease patients to feel isolated. Connecting with friends, family, and other patients and building a support group to express their feelings, enjoy fun activities, and discuss their disease symptoms can help reduce the disease’s stress


Stress management plans are an integral part of any disease management plan. During this Stress Awareness Month, Altus Biologics encourages physicians to speak to patients about the benefits of reducing their chronic stress levels.

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