Stress is a reality of life. Sometimes stress can be a good thing; it motivates us to accomplish things that we might not otherwise do. However, too much or ongoing stress can be both emotionally and physically damaging. How we manage the stress in our lives has an impact on whether it affects us negatively or positively. The following suggestions are some ways to avoid letting stress get the best of you.

1. Don't procrastinate

Waiting until the last minute and rushing through a project or task will increase your stress and make it more difficult to do quality work. Keep track of how you are spending your time each day in order to ferret out time wasters and eliminate them. Set deadlines for yourself and create accountability. For example, report to a friend or family member so that you are accountable to someone other than yourself. This will motivate you to get things done on time.

2. Don't develop unhealthy habits

Bad eating habits such as taking in too much fat, sugar, alcohol, tobacco or caffeine can negatively impact your health and make it more difficult for your body to handle the stress that comes your way. Sometimes during times of stress you might tend to rely on sugar, caffeine, alcohol or other unhealthy substances to keep you going. However, these things will only provide temporary relief and will hurt you in the long run. Eat plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Get between 6-8 hours of sleep each night and exercise at least three times per week. Your physical health can have a great impact on your emotional health, so taking care of your body can be an important part of relieving stress.

3. Don't neglect yourself

Make it a habit to do things you enjoy on a regular basis. This will help you relax and make you feel happier. Read a good book, visit an interesting place, take a long bath or go out with friends. When you are experiencing high levels of stress, the worst thing you can do is push yourself harder. If you allow yourself a break from time to time, you will be better equipped to handle whatever challenges you are facing in your life.

4. Don't take on too much

Learn to say no and do not feel compelled to give a reason. If you are asked to participate in the PTA bake sale, but are already overburdened with other responsibilities, you aren't required to give an answer as to why you can't do it. That is no one's business but yours. Simply say, "I would love to help, but I just can't right now." If pressed for a reason, ask, "Why do you want to know?" That generally stops people in their tracks and is a polite way of saying "It's none of your business." If there are commitments that you have already made but that are causing you extreme stress, learn to delegate. There are many tasks that can be taken over by others in order to relieve some of your burden. You don't have to do everything yourself. Let others help you.

5. Don't neglect personal relationships

Supportive social relationships provide opportunities to share your frustrations and disappointments, and allow you to receive suggestions and encouragement. Tell your spouse or a close friend when you are experiencing stress and ask them to help you get through it. Sometimes just having someone else who is aware of your circumstances is beneficial because it helps you feel that you are not alone.

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