Is the stress of life and career killing you? You may be going through tremendous change at work, fearful you may lose your job, struggling with an excessive workload and putting in a ton of hours. Nearly one hundred percent of your effort is centered around your job leaving little to no time for family, friends or anything else. You’re angry, frustrated and it shows. To complicate things, your child’s teacher contacted you about behavior issues and to let you know your child is not doing well at school. There may be a multitude of issues that have you totally overwhelmed.

You feel like you’re on a hamster wheel and want to get off. Life has got you down. If something doesn’t give, you could end up sick, totally isolated from family and friends, and possibly even worse, divorced and fired from your job. Now you’ve really complicated your life. You recognize the signs and symptoms of stress, but just don’t know where to turn.

Sound familiar?

It doesn’t have to be this way. That is not to say the stressors of life will go away.

Let’s face it, life happens.

When you recognize the symptoms, difficulty sleeping, easily angered, depressed, no energy, it is time to intervene. Start putting yourself first. There are strategies you can use to help alleviate stress, resume focus, and restore joy. Below are five tips that may help you on your way.

1) Practice the basics of good health. Regular exercise, adequate sleep and good nutrition. While this may seem obvious, it is definitely worth mentioning. Without your health, every area of your life can be compromised.

· Exercise: Just 30 minutes of walking daily can relieve stress and boost your mood. Break up your workout routine into short segments, perhaps 10 minutes each, if need be. Take the stairs at work. Find ways to just move.

· Sleep: Six to eight hours of sleep is ideal. The right amount of sleep keeps you healthy, mentally sharp, and able to cope with stress more effectively. It has been well documented in numerous studies to be extremely important to health and well-being.

· Good Nutrition: A nutritious, well balanced diet has powerful stress reducing benefits that improve brain functioning, shore up immune function, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and reduce toxins from the body. Eating healthy is all about planning. Prepare foods in advance. Keep healthy snacks at work and at home.

2) Engage in mindfulness and/or meditation.

· Mindfulness is living in the present moment, the here and now, not rehashing the past or worrying about the future. One simple way to practice mindfulness is to consider a 5-minute meditation. This can easily be done in your office or at home. Start with mindful breathing, focusing your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale, until you feel fully relaxed. Eyes open or closed. Meditation helps relieve stress and anxiety and it sharpens your focus and concentration.

3) Release burdensome and negative energy.

· Perhaps you’ve had a negative encounter with your boss that has left you frustrated and angry and you just can’t stop thinking about it. To release burdensome energy, often caused by unresolved matters, try doing a writing exercise, perhaps in your journal. Step one is to let all the negative emotion out; be as “victimy” as possible. Let it all out. Write until there is nothing more to say about the situation. Step two is to take responsibility for what you can about the situation. Step three is to acknowledge the person for who s/he is and what s/he is committed to. Whatever acknowledgement feels authentic to you is what you write about. At the end of this exercise, notice how the negative energy has been released. If you still feel some negative energy, go back to step one because there is probably more you need to say about the encounter.

4. Unplug. Your tank is running on empty. Time to refuel.

Ø Take a break and enjoy your weekends. Do something fun. Avoid doing emails or work-related activities as much as possible. Having been in a high stress career myself, I know there are times when we just have to catch up, but if that is the case, give yourself a limited time to do so, perhaps a few hours.

Ø Plan to take a vacation or, at the very least, a long weekend. No emails, no texts, no phone calls. No business work, period! Give your brain a rest and focus on your family.

Ø Connect with friends. Good friends can be such a great support for you as you go through stressful times.

5. Time Management

Ø Review what absolutely must get done and what needs to fall to the bottom of your daily to-do list. Identify your highest priorities. Then, give yourself credit for what you have been able to accomplish for the day; don’t focus on what didn’t get done. With a laser focus on your tasks, and no distractions, it is amazing what can get done even in one hour. Learn to say “no” to additional tasks wherever possible.

We all know not all stress is bad. Positive stress, referred to as “eustress,” can motivate people to perform, like when interviewing for a new job or in response to danger. It is when stress becomes negative, referred to as “distress,” that we need to intervene or risk health problems. In a recent article from WebMD, entitled, “The Effects of Stress on Your Body,” the author shared the following statistics:

· Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.

· Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints..

· Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety.

· The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared “stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress cost American industry more than $300 billion annually.”

· The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.

Don’t ignore the signs and symptoms of stress. These are signals that it’s time to intervene. Some turn to alcohol, tobacco or drugs to try to alleviate their stress but this only exacerbates the problem and creates new ones. Following the five tips I recommend should help you cope with stress. In the event they don’t and you still find yourself overwhelmed and/or resorting to drugs or alcohol to cope, I recommend asking for help from a healthcare professional. Long-term stress can definitely harm your health and wreak havoc with your life.