05/21/2012 08:09 am ET Updated Jul 21, 2012

Rally With Simple Real-World Strategies

If you are like many Americans, you experience stress on a daily basis. To better understand the stress faced by average people in America, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducts an annual survey to investigate the origins of our stress.

High stress levels can cause physical and psychological problems. For some, dealing with stress means falling into problematic behaviors, such as over- or under-eating, drinking and smoking.

When you're stuck and are relieving stress now by acting in ways that cause problems later, it's important to figure out how to regroup. What is it that interferes with your ability to cope in positive ways? In the 2010 APA survey, lack of willpower was the top barrier to changing how people cope with high stress levels.

It's easy to relate to the results of this survey. You may know that eating a bag of cookies or chips after a grueling day is not good for your long-term health, but in the short term, it takes willpower to pass up the unhealthy behavior and cope with exercise or some other healthy stress reliever.

In order to improve their willpower, people who responded to the survey said they needed to decrease fatigue, increase energy and improve confidence.

Strategies to Decrease Fatigue and Increase Energy:

Keep regular sleep hours. Sometimes it's hard to do, but skipping that late show and getting into bed at the same time each night can make a big difference in how you sleep, and in your energy the next day.

Get natural light. Natural light helps our bodies regulate when to wake up and get energized and when to fall asleep. Sitting by a window or making a point to get outside several times throughout the day can leave you awake during the day and tired at night.

Get exercise. This is a big one and often the hardest to do. But remember that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. If you're having trouble getting started, try exercising for three minutes. Get up and walk around, do a few lunges or stretch. You can always increase your time or build more in later. The important thing is to get started.

Notice illness or pain. Often pain, illness and health problems interfere with both energy and your ability to sleep. When we're stressed, we often ignore health problems until they become severe. Take note of how you are doing physically and go to a doctor or treat health problems before they escalate. Both your energy levels and sleep will likely improve.

You can find more strategies to improve how you feel in my new book, The Stress Response and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.

For more by Christy Matta, M.A., click here.

For more on stress, click here.