11/14/2013 08:54 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Take the Load Off: 5 Ways to Reduce Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life and one that can be extremely harmful on the body, mind and soul. Each and every one of us is programmed with the flight or flight reaction, which is the body's natural response to fear or danger. When you experience a stressful or frightening situation, your body produces the hormones adrenaline and cortisone. These hormones make your heart beat faster, raise blood sugar levels and increase your blood pressure. While this may help in a survival situation, over the long run an excess of cortisol and adrenaline can cause a great deal of damage to the arteries and major organs, which in turn increases your likelihood of developing heart disease and diabetes. Fortunately, there are some ways to manage and reduce stress in your life.

Tips for Reducing Stress

• Accept the things in life you cannot control. In other words, don't sweat the small stuff. There is no point in getting anxious, angry or frustrated at things that you cannot change. For example, you cannot control the weather or the traffic, so just sit back, relax, and tell yourself that this is just a minor setback in the grand scheme of things.

• Take a walk. Walking is a great low-impact form of exercise that will get the blood flowing and the lungs expanding. This releases endorphins, which produce feelings of euphoria and enhance the immune system. Walking also allows you to temporarily step away from your problems so that you can clear your head and come up with better solutions.

• Find the humor in a stressful situation. Most of the time, a stressful situation can be defused simply by forcing yourself to laugh at the absurdity of it. It may be easier said than done, but the next time you feel anxious or stressed out, try to laugh it off. You'll be surprised at how insignificant a problem can be if you choose to focus on the positive instead of the negative.

• Practice relaxation techniques. A recent study by Harvard Medical School revealed that people who practiced relaxation methods like meditation and yoga had less stress, and more active disease-fighting genes than those who did not take time to relax on a regular basis. In fact, the people in the study exhibited active genes that were able to lower blood pressure, fight inflammation, improve circulation and boost immunity.

• Eat better, sleep better. A poor diet and lack of sleep can lead to increased stress levels, which eventually takes its toll on the body. By eating wholesome foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy seeds and nuts, you give your body the energy and nutrients it needs to ward off stress. In addition, a good night's sleep will do wonders for your mood and your ability to tackle life's challenges.

Stress may be unavoidable, but that doesn't mean it is not manageable. By taking care of your body, being mindful about the things in your life that cause anxiety and stress, and training yourself to cope with stressful situations, you can avoid many of the negative side effects of this unhealthy food for the soul. How will you release your stess today? What tools do you pracctice to improve your day? Please share with others.

For more by Dr. Cynthia Thaik on her website, click here.

For preview of her upcoming book: Your Vibrant Heart

For more by Dr. Cynthia Thaik, click here.

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