You’re at your wit’s end. Your day at work was one thing after another and your boss had it in for you all day. As soon as you picked up the kids, the screaming and fighting started, and one brought home yet another note from the teacher about problems in school. Now it’s 10 p.m. There are dirty dishes and piles of bills to deal with. All you want to do is relax. You can’t wait to get to your spot on the couch and lose yourself while channel surfing.

Sound familiar? One of the most common responses to stress is tuning out the world. But it’s not a very effective or successful one. Stress reduction requires attention and discipline. Activities that actually reduce stress include daily exercise, finding constructive outlets for your emotions, socializing, performing relaxation exercises and eating a healthy diet.

None of these methods may eliminate your stress entirely, but they can help you balance your stress with positive experiences, to help you maintain a healthier mind and body. Research shows that practicing stress management is not merely about helping you live a more pleasant life. It also can help you live a longer one.

It may seem very obvious, but stopping to think about the things that stress you out can help you cope. Uncovering the roots of your stress helps you avoid that stress. You feel more in control when you know where your feelings come from. This feeling of having some control over the situation helps diffuse and reduce your stress and the feeling of being pressured. As you learn more about yourself and how you deal with stress, just knowing that certain behaviors which cause you additional anxiety are caused by stress will lessen those feelings of anxiety.

Your doctor will help you identify your personal stress triggers. You may be surprised to learn that nearly every event in your life causes some level of stress. The severity of stressors has been ranked by the medical community, but how you react depends on what you think and feel about the event or feeling.

Physical stressors include everything from lack of sleep to invasive surgery. Common psychological stressors evoke distressing emotions, such as hate, anger, sadness and fear.

Past stressors, such as a traumatic childhood experience, may continue to exert pressure in the present. Present stressors include work deadlines and sales quotas. Future stressors include things that have not yet happened but that we worry about anyway, such as tax day.

Stress can be positive like a promotion or getting married or negative a job loss or divorce. Although positive events are usually better, they can be stressful because often something is given up when something is gained. For example, you trade the familiarity and comfort of an old job for the excitement of a new job, but the new job includes challenges, too.

Acute stress comes on suddenly and lasts for a relatively short time, such as your child getting sick on the same day you have to give a big presentation at work. Chronic stress is continuous and long lasting. It usually stems larger life challenges from an unsatisfying job, an unhappy relationship, a sick child or parent, or financial troubles. Chronic stress may also arise from traumatic childhood experiences.

It is not surprising that long term stress is far more damaging than shorter stressful episodes. Chronic stress can wear you down physically and mentally. You may think you just have to learn to live with long term stress rather than learning ways to cope with your reactions to it. If you learn how to cope, you might reduce or even avoid the damage stress can cause to your health. Your physician can help you with stress management.

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