By Barbara Meyer


No matter what your age, gender or background, you probably have some element of stress in your life. Common sources of stress are health issues, relationships with friends and family, major life changes and work. Experiencing stress over short-term events is normal, but when stress becomes chronic, it’s a problem. 
Chronic stress can cause you to feel helpless, easily frustrated, angry and unable to concentrate. Physical effects include fatigue, headaches, insomnia, sexual dysfunction and digestive problems. Eventually stress can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. 
You may not always be able to control life events that trigger stress, but you are in control of how you react to them. Here are some simple and easy methods to try: 
Identify your stress triggers
You can’t address stress until you determine where it’s coming from. Whether it’s your long workday commute or an overloaded social calendar, think about what’s causing you to feel stressed. Write it down regularly in a journal and look for a pattern that you can change. 
Talk it out
Share how you’re feeling with a family member, friend or clergyperson who knows you and can offer you their perspective. Sometimes just having someone care and listen is enough to make you feel better. A physician or therapist can also provide professional assistance if needed. 
Be happy with your best
Instead of dwelling on imperfect outcomes, learn to be happy and satisfied that you’ve done your best. Sometimes your best will just be your best for that particular day, and tomorrow will bring new opportunities to try things differently. Don’t set unrealistic expectations or compare yourself to others; focus on your own successes. 
Be good to you
No matter how busy you are, put something enjoyable on the top of every day’s “to do” list. Whether it’s engaging in a favorite hobby or sport, watching a much-loved television show or unwinding in a warm bath, nurturing yourself will help put you in a better frame of mind to face daily stressors.
Take care of your physical health
A healthy lifestyle helps keep stress in perspective. That includes getting the proper amount of sleep (for most people that’s seven to nine hours a night), nourishing your body with balanced, healthy food that’s low in caffeine, sugar, and empty calories; and exercising regularly. Explore yoga, meditation and deep breathing for their calming effects.
Slim down your schedule
If your schedule is so packed that your “to-do” list never gets done, consider limiting the things you take on. It’s okay to gently decline requests for your help, attention or service sometimes. Saying yes to saying no a little more often does not make you a bad person.
Many people manage stress the wrong way: through alcohol abuse, smoking, excessive gambling, or binge eating. While this may lead to short-term relief, it generally leads to bigger problems and more stress. The key to managing stress is by knowing you’re in control.
Exercising that control may not always be easy or comfortable, but the results will be worth it when you see the benefits in your health, work and personal life.