Don't mess with stress

Bust stress in three simple steps

If you keep losing your car keys, snapping at loved ones and struggling to stay awake in meetings, you may be experiencing stress overload. “Stress is your body’s response to the world around you,” explains stress and wellness expert Beverly Beuerman-King, owner of Work Smart Live Smart. “There’s a positive side to stress—it gives you an adrenaline boost which provides energy, creativity and problem-solving abilities.” But when stress continues unabated over a long period of time, it puts you at risk for chronic illnesses, such as depression, digestive problems and heart disease. Here’s what Beuerman-King suggests for coping with the stress in your life.

You may not even be aware that some of your everyday aches and pains are actually due to stress. Common symptoms include neck, jaw and shoulder pain, tension headaches, and fatigue or an inability to sit still. When your body is under stress, your immune system is compromised so you’re more susceptible to colds and flu viruses. Stress may also manifest itself in your body through your digestive system, leading to an upset stomach, constipation or diarrhea. If you notice that you’re feeling hopeless and negative, those may also be indicators that you’re having difficulty coping with the stress in your life.

You can’t manage stress effectively until you pinpoint why you feel it. Perhaps you’re overworked or you don’t feel you have any control over the direction of your career. Maybe a relationship is on the rocks or you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things on your daily to-do list. Lifestyle factors such as a poor diet may also exacerbate stress. For example, if you reach for coffee and a doughnut to make it through the workday, the quick fix of sugar and caffeine will cause you to crash with low energy soon after.

A healthy diet, good night’s sleep and regular exercise will all help your body to better-handle stress. When you’re at your desk, release tension with frequent breaks to stretch your neck, shoulders, back and hips. Throughout the day, remember to breathe deeply—in through your nose and out through your mouth—to get oxygen into your blood to keep you energized. And try a three-minute meditation to help focus your racing mind.