According to research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, levels of stress have increased by 18 percent for women and 24 percent for men from 1983 to 2009. So, if you are suffering from mild to chronic stress, you are not alone.

We live in a fast-paced world where we are pushed to multitask and take on more activities that we can handle. As parents, we owe it to ourselves and to our children to strive to reach and maintain a healthy mental and emotional state.

One of the keys to stress management is taking time for your own individual needs

 Doing so isn't selfish. It's the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.

Remember the last time you traveled by airplane? You were advised to put your own oxygen mask on before trying to help someone else. Just as in flying, you can't take care of someone else if you haven't taken care of yourself. If you don't nurture yourself first, you'll have less to share with the world.

If you do not give the best to yourself you will stay in the same place you are right now—stressed, overwhelmed and unfulfilled, and sooner or later you will resent those you dedicate your life to.

The first step you need to take to lower your levels of stress is to start scheduling "Me Time."

What is Me Time exactly? This is not the time you use for activities like grooming and doctor's appointments for example. This time should be used for activities that you enjoy fully, that promote relaxation and increase your sense of self-worth. It might be taking time in the morning to open up yourself in meditation to that greater, unlimited part of yourself. Find that time of day when you have the strongest feeling that all things are possible. Otherwise, it might be taking some time to listen to your favorite music, or read a good book.

Choose what will be your "Me time"—find a way to take care of your needs and wants and strenghten your relationship with the most important person in the world, YOU!

Consider activities like walking, gardening, journaling, being outdoors, hanging out with friends, etc.

Other approaches recommended for stress management that are becoming more and more popular every day are the practice of meditation and mindful breathing.

Through meditation you can reach a state of balance and peace. It is easy to learn and you only need a few minutes of your day to take advantage of its benefits. It is said that a few minutes of meditation is equivalent to four hours of deep sleep.

If you are a beginner, I highly recommend that you start with a guided meditation or visualization that will help you make mental images of places or experiences that will promote inner peace and relaxation.

Yoga is another practice that was created originally to facilitate deeper states of meditation.

Nowadays, even though the yoga practice is promoted more as a fitness therapy you can still get both benefits, managing stress and for fitness purposes.

Mindful breathing is also a component to both, yoga and meditation and it is about using the breath as the object of the attention. Every time that your mind starts wandering you bring your attention to you breathing in and out.

Another practical benefit of these techniques is that you don't need a special equipment to implement them. Comfortable clothing for yoga will do it and just taking a 5 or 10-minute break to get relaxed and reenergized would make a big difference in your life.

So, next time you feel stressed, just stop for a minute and take a deep breath. Fill up your lungs with the breath of life and let go of all the tension you have accumulated during the day.

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