For many people, stress feels like the natural price paid for an active, fulfilling life. If you’re lucky enough to have a career, a family and a social life, you figure you have no choice but to accept the side effect: stress. Maybe you think that’s okay. After all, stress can sometimes be beneficial — sharpening your senses and providing the adrenaline rush you need to conquer deadlines. But it can also be harmful. Even short bursts can reduce sex drive and being stressed has also been linked to making you more likely to catch the common cold. And if you’re regularly stressed out, over time, it can increase your risk of heart disease and it can even age you!
Not a pretty picture. Before you get even more stressed, know that there’s plenty you can do to better manage and reduce the stress in your life. The payoff: You’ll feel better, be more focused and efficient, and greatly reduce your chances of having related health problems. Plus, you’ll be better able to enjoy that active, fulfilling life of yours.
The first step in any stress-reduction plan is discovering exactly how and why you get stressed, and learning to recognize when the stress of a situation is more perceived than real. When you feel overwhelmed by your stress, you need to use stress reduction techniques like meditation or yoga to help you relax. The next step is learning how to use exercise and food choices to combat stress. If you work to change these factors — your exercise habits, your diet and your mind-set about challenges and fears — you’ll be setting the stage for a calmer, happier you, no matter what stressful situations life throws at you.