Stress is an normal emotional response to the demands of life. Everyone experiences it, and the results range in intensity from being in a foul mood to more complicated illnesses. In fact, it is estimated that 75 percent to 90 percent of all illnesses are stress related. Learning to manage stress can help you live a healthier and longer life.

There are a number of ways to reduce stress. Consider approaching stress reduction from a physical, mental, and social standpoint. Here are a few ideas:

Phyiscal approaches:

  • Get regular exercise. You don’t have to go to a gym to exercise and pay for an expensive membership. Although a gym membership and following through with exercise will serve you well, you can take smaller steps to incorporate exercise into your daily life. This might include parking farther away from the door when shopping, going for a walk or bike ride, or even getting up during commercials when watching television.
  • Improve your diet. Stress and diet are closely linked. When we are stressed, we tend to reach for the foods that are bad for us. Pay attention to your eating habits when stressed, and watch for self-defeating trends.

Mental approaches:

  • Keep a positive outlook. This can be difficult to do when we think of this in a general sense. Break it down by trying to identify things that are going well or that went well. This might include something as small as the fact that you didn’t have to stop at a red light on your way to work, or maybe that the sun came out on a winter day.
  • Leave work at work. This may be easier said than done, but consider the benefits. Many times bringing work home is a sure way to stress out both ourselves and our families. Leaving work at work might be worth the extra effort.

Social approaches:

  • Put effort into creating a support network. Friends are important to share both good and bad times with. Although stress may make us want to withdraw, it can be very helpful to spend times with friends and family who are supportive.

Stress is a natural part of life, but there are ways to deal with it in healthy ways. Make a plan to reduce the stress in your life!

For more information and for some free kindle downloads go to the Offical Stress Awareness Month website.

Information was adapted from the Community-Based Nurturing Parenting series which is offered throughout the state by Michigan State University Extension.