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Ongoing stress can increase your risk of many health problems, including heart disease, obesity, depression, and diabetes.

Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but if you feel constant stress and experience physical symptoms (such as headaches, back or neck pain, difficulty sleeping), it's probably time to take action.

There are things you can do to reduce or cope with stress. Here are a few resources to help you:

The Basics

Not all stress is bad. Stress can help protect you in a dangerous situation. But preventing and managing chronic (ongoing) stress can help lower your risk for serious health problems like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression.

You can prevent or reduce stress by:

Planning ahead
Deciding which tasks need to be done first
Preparing for stressful events

Some stress is hard to avoid. You can find ways to manage stress by:

Noticing when you feel stressed
Taking time to relax
Getting active and eating healthy
Talking to friends and family

What are the signs of stress?
When people are under stress, they may feel:

Worried
Angry
Irritable
Depressed
Unable to focus

Stress also affects the body. Physical signs of stress include:

Headaches
Back pain
Problems sleeping
Upset stomach
Weight gain or loss
Tense muscles
Frequent or more serious colds

What causes stress?
Stress is often caused by some type of change. Even positive changes, like winning a contest or getting a job promotion, can be stressful. Stress can be short-term or long-term.

Common causes of short-term stress:

Too much to do and not enough time
Lots of little problems in the same day, like a traffic jam or running late
Getting lost
Having an argument

Common causes of longer-term stress:

Death of a loved one
Chronic (ongoing) illness
Caring for someone with a serious illness
Problems at work
Money problems

What are the benefits of managing stress?
Managing stress can help you:

Sleep better
Control your weight
Get sick less often and heal faster
Lessen neck and back pain
Be in a better mood
Get along better with family and friends

Take Action!

Being prepared and in control of your situation will help you feel less stress. Follow these 9 tips for preventing and managing stress.

1. Plan your time.
Think ahead about how you are going to use your time. Write a to-do list and figure out what’s most important – do those things first. Be realistic about how long each task will take.

2. Prepare yourself.
Prepare ahead of time for stressful events like a job interview or a hard conversation with a loved one.

Picture the event in your mind.
Stay positive.
Imagine what the room will look like and what you will say.
Have a back-up plan.

3. Relax with deep breathing or meditation.
Deep breathing and meditation are 2 ways to relax your muscles and clear your mind.

Find out how easy it is to use deep breathing to relax. External Links Disclaimer Logo
Try meditating for a few minutes today. External Links Disclaimer Logo

4. Relax your muscles.
Stress causes tension in your muscles. Try stretching or taking a hot shower to help you relax. Check out these stretches you can do at your desk.

5. Get active.
Physical activity can help prevent and manage stress. It can also help relax your muscles and improve your mood.

Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast or biking.
Be sure to exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Do strengthening activities – like sit-ups or lifting weights – at least 2 days a week.

6. Eat healthy.
Give your body plenty of energy by eating vegetables, fruits, and protein.

7. Drink alcohol only in moderation.
Don’t use alcohol and drugs to manage your stress. If you choose to drink, drink only in moderation. This means no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men.

8. Talk to friends and family.
Tell your friends and family if you are feeling stressed. They may be able to help.

9. Get help if you need it.
Stress is a normal part of life. But if your stress doesn’t go away or keeps getting worse, you may need help. Over time, stress can lead to serious problems like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or anxiety.

If you are feeling down or hopeless, talk to a doctor about depression.
If you are feeling anxious, find out how to get help for anxiety.

A mental health professional (like a psychologist or social worker) can help treat these conditions with talk therapy (called psychotherapy) or medicines.

Lots of people need help dealing with stress – it’s nothing to be ashamed of!

Simplify your life to reduce stress
Stress is part of life, but it doesn't have to rule your life. Fight stress by simplifying and decluttering your life and mind.

You've probably noticed the word "simplify" popping up in magazine articles and talk show discussions about how to deal with the chaos and complexity of modern life. There's even a monthly magazine about how to simplify your life.

The resurgence of an old idea — living a simpler life — isn't surprising at a time when many people feel overwhelmed by their busy, complicated lives. The voluntary simplicity movement, as it's sometimes called, preaches the value of living a more balanced, less stressful, deliberate and thoughtful life. You don't have to be a zealot, though, to want to simplify your life.


The effect of clutter

Can't find your car keys amid the piles on your counter? Tired of having to excavate the kitchen table before you can serve dinner? There's no question, being surrounded by clutter is an ongoing cause of stress. It's more than just an irritation, though. When you're surrounded by more things than you can manage, it sends a visual message that your life is out of control. And it can become a vicious circle, where disorder brings about procrastination, which only perpetuates the chaos. To make matters worse, when you're under stress, cortisol, the stress hormone, short-circuits your brain leading to forgetfulness, irritation and plain old meltdowns.

It's not just your home that can get cluttered. Your life and even your mind can also become overcrowded with too much junk. Maybe it's time to try a new approach. The following are ideas to help you simplify your life and reduce stress. Choose one and give it a try.


Clear the clutter

Pick one area to tackle, such as the junk drawer in the kitchen or the piles of clothes in the bedroom. Take a hard look at what you've accumulated. Clear out any items you're not using. If they're in good condition, consider donating them to a local charity. If you absolutely can't part with some items, box them up and put an expiration date of a year in the future on the box. Store the box. If the box remains unopened until the expiration date, you clearly can do without its contents. Trash or donate the box unopened.


Switch off the media

TVs, radios, smart phones, laptops, video games — they all contribute to audiovisual clutter. Being flooded with stimuli, even entertaining stimuli, is a tremendous source of stress. Unplug and unhook yourself. At the very least, turn off the TV while you're on the phone, or turn off the phone when you're watching TV. If that's not enough, try a vacation from the TV news, the daily paper and news magazines. It can take a couple of weeks to adjust and get beyond the withdrawal effects. Eliminating the daily paper will also reduce the amount of paper coming in and cluttering up your home.


Clear your calendar

How often have you complained that there aren't enough hours in the day? It's not the clock that's the problem. It's the number of activities you're trying to pack in. Being too busy can become a habit so entrenched that it leads you to postpone or cut short what really matters to you, making you a slave to a lifestyle you don't even like. You may have so much going on that you don't have time to assess what matters most to you, let alone make time to do it.

What can you do? Only say yes to activities you really care about. In other words, learn to say no. Remember, it's easier to decline an invitation than to figure out how to get out of it later. If you need a reason for saying no, explain that you've promised your family you wouldn't take on any new activities. If you're involved in volunteer work or even a social group that you dread, get out of it. Think about how pleasant it would be to look at your calendar and find that all the don't-want-to-but-have-to commitments have been erased.


Stop multitasking

Your mind can also be cluttered, your attention spread too thin among too many tasks. Long touted as the mark of the highly efficient, multitasking has recently been revealed to be less of a boon than once thought. In fact, recent research shows that people who multitask tend to be less able to concentrate and more easily distracted than people who rarely multitask.

Perhaps more importantly, multitasking doesn't let you get into the flow — a state of being so absorbed in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. When you're in the flow, also called in the zone, things seem to happen effortlessly. You're totally absorbed by what you're doing. There's no room in your awareness for conflicts or contradictions. Flow creates a sense of fulfillment and engagement, and even contentment.

So, try for more flow and less multitasking. Start by turning off the electronic distractions and focusing on one task. Only when you've completed that task can you go on to the next. Focusing on one task is also a good way to learn to be present — or totally engaged — in the moment. This is mindfulness. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

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This is good stuff regarding stress and stress relief. I am a certified Institute of HeartMath trainer and mentor. IHM has been creating and researching stress relief and self-management tools for over 20 years. If anyone would like to get more information or discuss with me how to learn and use these methods please let me know through the forum.

HeartMath techniques are used by US Special Forces, Navy Seals, and other high stress occupations throughout the world.

Tracee,

This post is great, as a lot of people don't even see that the clutter becomes more than stuff...hoarding (garbage), body clutter (fat), relationship clutter (drama), and a laundry list of chaos....thank you for pointing this out. We in the first world make a lot of mistakes by collecting the bounty and holding onto it with a vengeance....afraid someone will take it away.

Thanks a bunch!
BS aka Baxtah Smith

Yes, BS, good point. Our nervous system is constantly adjusting to how we respond to external stimuli. If we have established high stress as our "normal" then our physiology treats that as normal and creates the belief that being in stress is "safe" or what we are comfortable with. We don't realize that our nervous system is accepting being in a state of stress as how we "should" feel, even though we know intellectually that being stressed does not allow us to function at our highest and best.

Absolutely correct John.

Yes, the goal is to train ourselves to raise our baseline of stress so that we are not locked into being stressed as our "normal".

Yes....the majoity of the population thinks that the para-sympathetic nervous system belongs on Ghost Busters...Mort de rire!

BS

You're very welcome Baxter. I had to get rid of alot of drama and declutter my life of the stress it caused. My heart disease is what I have because of it. I'm not saying my life is stress free, but most of it is good stress and not the bad.

Yes,

Most people are drama machines....that is why I hang with so few peeps...less drama...less problems.

BS

Amen brother!

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