10 Ways to Reduce Stress

Everybody gets stressed out sometimes.

The problem is constant stress can make you sick. It’s responsible for 70 percent of all visits to family doctors.

Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire your brain, leaving you vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

To help you counter stress in your life, here are 10 of my favorite tips for getting stress out of your life.

1. Unplug.

Set aside relaxation time by including rest and relaxation time in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries. Get away from the TV, radio, iPod, computer and cell phone.

2. Accept what you can’t change.

Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent some stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.

3. Do something you enjoy every day.

Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano or working on your bike. Joseph Campbell, a wise philosopher, suggests that we should each “follow our bliss.” The more you do in life that goes with your own flow, the more passion you’ll have for what you do.

4. Give, give, give.

Give something away: your time, something you no longer use, something you have outgrown. Giving to your friend in need, local groups or your neighbor helps you increase meaning and purpose. This has been found to improve health and boost the immune system.

5. More sex equals less stress.

“Being intimate correlates to healing faster, getting sick less often, and living longer,” says James Coan.

Even physical touch like holding hands with a loved one can relieve stressful feelings.

6. Learn to forgive.

The cost we pay for holding on to resentment is very high. Resentments are very stressful and weigh us down with the inflated burdens of the past. A study conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found that forgiving others was linked with better self-reported mental and physical health.

7. Practice daily meditation.

The goal in meditation is to quiet the mind by focusing your attention without distraction on a repeated sound, called a mantra, or on an image, in order to enter a deeply relaxed state. Regular meditation practice can ease stress by helping you diffuse your triggers and allowing your body to relax. By clearing the mind, you are forced to “let go” of stressful events. Experts suggest practicing meditation for at least 20 minutes once or twice a day, but you can enjoy mini-meditations throughout the day, whenever you feel stress getting a grip on you.

8. Develop a support network.

Studies show that women are better able to cope with emotional stress than are men, partly due to their stronger support networks. When stress becomes a problem, spending time with loved ones, meeting with friends or even caring for your pet may help.

9. Listen to music.

If you turn to your music collection when you’re stressed out, you’re not alone. The American Psychological Association found that a majority of people polled claim music as their number one stress reliever.

10. Simplify your life.

Whether it’s getting rid of clutter or switching to online banking, about five to seven percent of adults in Kenya are pursuing some form of voluntary simplicity in an attempt to reduce stress.

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