Healthy Lifestyle

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Take a proactive approach to stress

Few men and women can avoid stress. Be it a byproduct of a hectic work environment or the result of juggling a family and a career, stress is a part of life for many adults. In fact, according to a report from the American Psychological Association, 77 percent of adults experience physical symptoms of stress on a regular basis. The APA also notes that job pressure is the leading cause of stress, followed by money and health.

Many adults cannot envision a scenario in which they aren't worrying about work or their finances, so it's easy to assume there's little they can do to reduce their stress levels. However, there are several proactive steps men and women can take on a daily basis to reduce their stress levels in an attempt to live a healthier life.

* Give yourself a little more leeway. Work-related stress is not always a byproduct of tension with coworkers or a seemingly endless workload. For some, work-related stress starts on their way into the office and continues on their trip home at the end of the day. Sitting in traffic when you have to be at the office by a given time is a significant stressor for many men and women. In a 2011 independent study commissioned by the navigation product manufacturer TomTom(R), researchers studied the physiological stress markers in participants' saliva and found that both men and women experienced an increase in stress when driving in traffic, even when they did not feel their stress levels increasing. Men had a particularly stressful experience when sitting in traffic, as their stress levels increased by 60 percent when driving in traffic (female stress levels increased by 8.7 percent in the same circumstances).

To avoid such increases in stress, leave for work a little earlier in the morning. Giving yourself an extra 15 to 20 minutes to get to the office may help you respond more positively to rush-hour traffic, reducing your stress levels as you get ready for the day ahead. Leaving early may even allow you to take an alternate route to work that might be slightly out of the way but feature fewer motorists.

* Get out from behind your desk. Sitting behind a desk all day makes it easier to work through lunch, which can make your workday seem that much longer and that much more stressful. Take a more traditional lunch break, even if it's only to the office kitchenette or cafeteria, so you can get away from your computer and think about something other than work for a little while. After lunch, take periodic breaks to stretch and to take a quick breather. Get a glass of water or a cup of tea or just walk around. Such breaks can prevent existing stress from escalating further or can help you ward off work-related stress entirely.

* Make healthy changes to your lifestyle. Your lifestyle can either help you prevent stress or make stress that much worse. A healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet, including one wherein caffeine and sugar consumption is kept to a minimum. The APA notes that poor nutrition is the fifth-leading cause of stress in the United States, so emphasizing a healthy diet may prevent the onset of stress or reduce its symptoms. Too much caffeine and sugar can cause mood and energy swings and negatively affect your ability to get a good night's sleep. A bad night's sleep will only exacerbate stressful situations throughout the day.

In addition to eating a healthy diet and finding time to exercise, which may prevent stress or reduce its effects,  you should limit your alcohol consumption and stop smoking if you are a smoker. Excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco or drug use are negative ways to cope with stress and will only make stress worse, while avoiding such triggers may help you prevent the onset of stress.

* Reduce your workload. The APA study found that 31 percent of adults admitted to having difficulty managing their responsibilities at the office and at home. It's difficult to reduce your workload at home, so consider doing so at the office. This can be as simple as delegating responsibilities more often or as significant as working less. Stress is associated with a host of ailments, including heart disease and a weakened immune system, so even those adults who feel they cannot budge with regard to their professional responsibilities might need to do so if work-related stress has gotten out of hand, as the consequences of ignoring stress could prove dire.

Gadsden Times