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Do you have a lot on your plate at the moment, and you’re really not sure how you’re going to get it all done?  Do you say yes to every request, knowing that you can just sleep a little less until you weather the storm?  Do you feel a bit on edge, and that you can’t quite catch your breath? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, you are experiencing a high level of stress that seems to come with living in today’s world.  How you cope and deal with this stress (or not) is one of the most critical factors to living a long and healthy life.

My grandfather lived well into his 90’s, and frankly he didn’t have the healthiest diet.  He remained physically and mentally active, but I personally think the key to his longevity was the fact that he had a very effective way of managing stress, keeping balance in his life, and not sweating the small stuff.

Stress is a normal, natural part of life, coming from the good and bad that define what it means to be human.  However, in today’s world it is very easy for us to adapt to extreme, unhealthy levels of stress, and in a sense trick ourselves into thinking that it’s normal and “we’re controlling it.”  Wrong.  Studies have shown stress as a key contributor to everything from depression and heart disease to sexual dysfunction.  One study showed that 90% of doctor visits were triggered from symptoms that were merely the manifestation of stress (Elizabeth Scott, M.S.).

No matter how healthy your diet and effective your physical fitness routine, if you fail to effectively manage your stress, your overall health will be marginalized.

Here are a few tips that I use to help manage stress.

  1. Get More Sleep – It’s a proven fact that at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is needed for normal functioning.  Any less is unhealthy and adds to your stress.  Oh, and if you’re one of those who claims “I don’t need 7 hours,” research has proven that >96% of the population does need a minimum of 7 hours.
  2. Sublimize with Exercise – Exercising not only keeps you active and fit, but gets the blood flowing and can help clear your head.  Think of it as physical catharsis, or a “defense mechanism with benefits.”
  3. Treat Yourself – Although always a good idea, when stress is at it’s highest, treat yourself in the same fashion that you would your child or someone you love.  Go shopping, go to a nice dinner, a movie, etc., and ensure that you “take care of yourself” with a bit more patience and kindness.
  4. Minimize for a While – Prioritize the most important stuff and either delay or cancel as much of the rest as possible.  This means saying “not right now” or even “no” from time to time – – I know this is very difficult for some.

These tips are meant to be simple, everyday things you can do to help cope with and manage stress.  However, if you are having a difficult time consider exploring meditation or speaking with a counselor who can help you put together a stress management program that will work for you.
Small steps add up!