From a public health perspective, it is important to develop effective measures to deal with stress which are based on the individual's participation, such as stress management provided in group sessions. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to compare and evaluate the self-reported health condition of women in terms of their general symptoms, stress and sense of coherence (SOC) after participation in a stress management programme. The intervention, which had a modified crossover design and involved 40 women divided into two groups (G1 and G2), comprised eight meetings, the content of which was both theoretical and practical, and included information about stress, stress management, massage and mental training. A questionnaire was filled in on three occasions: before and after the intervention (8 weeks later), and after another 8 weeks (16 weeks later). The questionnaire contained 60 items comprising background factors, general symptoms, stress and SOC. No significant differences existed between the groups at baseline. In favour of the intervention, significant differences were found between the groups with regard to fewer general symptoms (P = 0.035) as well as a tendency to stress reduction (P = 0.060). A comparison within groups showed that both groups had a significant reduction in symptoms after the intervention (G1, P = 0.002; and G2, P = 0.003) and in reduced stress (both P = 0.001). After a further 8 weeks, both groups still showed significantly fewer general symptoms and reduced stress, as well as significant improvements with regard to SOC (G1, P = 0.012; and G2, P = 0.026). These findings indicate that the combination of mental training and massage in this stress management programme had a positive influence on the women's health condition. The pilot study design could be used in a full-scale study with randomised groups.