Smiling is the first line of defence against stress. It's quick, easy, and free! When you smile your body releases feel-good hormones, while the stress hormone, cortisol, is reduced. Smiling helps you feel calm and in control. It lowers your blood pressure and makes you feel good about yourself.
As well as its undoubted benefits for your general health, exercise is highly effective in reducing stress. It improves blood-flow to the brain, helping you think more clearly. Exercise is also another great way to release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers and feel-good hormones. There is also evidence that fit people are better able to handle the long-term effects of stress.
Taking a rest isn't only about not doing anything. A rest from work can mean putting the emphasis on what you do in your leisure time - hobbies, holidays, sport - to counterbalance work or everyday stress. And we all need sleep for energy, good concentration and general health. Chronic sleep-deprivation can affect your performance at work, which can be a key factor in raising stress levels.
Changing your thoughts is not as difficult as you think. Try to adopt an outlook on life that stops you seeing external events as determining your happiness. Instead, see your thoughts as the determiner of your happiness. It takes practice, but if you can do this you'll reduce the negative tension that leads to much of the stress in your life.
When you need to reduce the pressure in your life, you can't always do it on your own. Everyone should have a support network of friends, family, co-workers and other people they can call on to help take the strain - whether it's practical help or a sympathetic ear when you feel down.
Don't let work dominate your life. No matter how ambitious you are, it's important to make time for relaxation and fun. That might mean reducing the number of hours you work, or changing to a job that's closer to home so your commuting time is reduced. Use time management techniques to ensure you're more productive during your normal working hours, rather than continually staying late at the office.
A good relaxation technique is an anti-stress weapon that you always carry with you, to help you deal with any stressful situation as it arises. Make relaxation a regular part of your daily routine. There are so many relaxation techniques, from deep-breathing and visualization to meditation and self-hypnosis. Find one that works for you - check out the many books, CDs and DVDs that can help.
A balanced diet that delivers all the nutrients your body needs to function at its optimum level is essential for dealing with stressful situations. And cutting back on stimulants like caffeine and sugar and depressants like alcohol and nicotine will keep your blood sugar levels constant and help you to avoid mood swings.
Make sure you get and give your fair share of hugs. Not only does hugging feel good, it has been proven to help reduce the stress level, cortisone.
If you feel that despite all your efforts stress is getting the better of you, there are lots of people who can help. The International Stress Management Association provides referrals to stress management professionals, as well as guidance on dealing with stress.