Stress affects all of us these days. Jobs, family issues, the daily news and hundreds of other factors can all help create and promote the stress and anxiety that so many of us feel.

Of course, there are always going to be factors in your life that make you worried and can leave you feeling nervous, afraid or uncomfortable. That’s simply life. But there are ways you can minimize the effect stress may be having on your physical, mental and emotional health.

Simple lifestyle changes for better health are some of the easiest ways to handle stress. A physically healthier you doesn’t make the sources of stress in your life disappear, but does leave you better equipped to handle them.

High on the healthier lifestyle list is being more active and eating healthier. Something as simple as adding a daily walk or bike ride improves physical health and helps refocus your attention away from the things that might be bothering you.

Being physically healthier can help you better manage stress, too. A few simple dietary changes, like adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, is an important step in that direction.

Equally important is avoiding poor lifestyle choices that both weaken your health and add stress all on their own. Excessive alcohol consumption, too much caffeine, smoking and overeating all increase stress.

In addition to such changes, try adding activities that bring relaxation and lower stress levels. Look to activities that bring you enjoyment, good feelings and a distraction from the stressors in your life. A walk in the park serves such a purpose. So does daily meditation, a yoga class, or reading or listening to something that provokes laughter. Music can often be calming, or just putting aside time to read a good book. Time spent with good friends is another way to relax.

But if finding time to work in relaxation activities is a problem, make a change. Excessive demands on your time also create stress. You may need to learn to sometimes say “no” in order to make time for yourself.

Stress is a basic part of life, but excessive stress and anxiety bring real costs. If you find that taking self-care measures isn’t enough, consider talking to a professional counselor who can help you identify the sources of your stress and can provide tools to help you better cope with them.

”Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.

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