The idea of a stress-free (or even minimally stressful) lifestyle is completely foreign to most of us: According to the American Psychological Association's recent Stress in America survey, the majority of Americans in every age group report experiencing stress at higher levels than what they believe to be healthy. Unfortunately, we often write off chronic stress as an unavoidable byproduct of our over-scheduled, always-plugged-in lifestyles. In today's world, we're told, stress is the "new fat," work-life balance is a mere "myth" and young people are coming of age as America's "most-stressed generation."
Although there are still many misconceptions around stress, we also know more about what it is and what it does to our bodies than ever before. The research tells us that chronic stress leads to the development of a number of chronic diseases, decreases productivity and creativity, contributes to the development of anxiety and other mental health disorders, and can hurt our relationships, among a host of other negative health impacts. Needless to say, the cost of chronic stress is difficult to overestimate.
But the good news is that stress (or at least an overwhelming amount of stress) doesn't have to be a given: There are scientifically proven ways to decrease your stress responses and lower the body's stress hormone levels. Here at The Huffington Post, in our quest to de-stress, we've committed to abiding by the mandate "Less Stress, More Living." On the Healthy Living team, we've written personal lists of what we've stopped stressing over (check them out here, here, here, here and here), asked our readers to tell us what they don't think is worth the stress, and talked to health and wellness experts about the little (and sometimes big) things they're letting go of this year.
Arianna Huffington has called 2013 the year we prioritize beating stress, and to that end, we're inviting our community to participate in the two-week Stress Less Challenge, starting on April 15 (also known as Tax Day, one of the most stressful days of the year). The goal? To begin letting go of some of the things that cause us unnecessary stress, and to find healthy, practical ways of coping with life's daily pressures.
In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, we invite you to join us in the challenge, hosted by HuffPost's mental health editor, Lloyd I. Sederer, MD, for daily guidance from experts for simple ways to reduce stress and take charge of your life.
In creating a healthy lifestyle, managing stress is just as important as maintaining a nutritious diet, exercising and getting enough rest. So kick-start a de-stressing routine that works for you this month by clicking on the link below to sign up for the challenge -- and share your progress in the comments or by tweeting along with @HealthyLiving.
For more by Carolyn Gregoire, click here.
For more on stress, click here.