Stress is a major health epidemic affecting so many of us in the U.S. We suffer symptoms from it daily, ranging from the affects on our appetite, sleep, relationships, and immune response. Stress also floods our body with adrenaline and cortisol.

So what can you do to manage stress?
First, one of the key ways of managing it is in knowing that you do have some control over it. When you realize this you will stop letting stress call all the shots and will feel more empowered. The next step is to create a healthy lifestyle where you make self-care a priority in these 4 areas: sleep, exercise, eating well, and maintaining social interaction.

1: Get enough sleep
Studies show that 35 percent of adults get less than 7 hours of sleep a night. The recommended amount for most is 7.5-8 hours. A sleep deficit can develop which can take a toll on our health over time. Create healthy sleep habits by establishing a bedtime routine. Get 10 minutes of morning sunlight to help set your circadian rhythm. Wake up and sleep at the same time every day. Avoid caffeine after 10 am. And whether it’s meditation, breathwork, mindful breaks or something else entirely, do something that helps you rest during the day when you’re awake. Doing so can help set you up for better sleep at night.

2: Exercise regularly
Making exercise a priority can help decrease stress as well as reduce your risk for chronic disease. The recommended amount is 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity a week. Do something that you enjoy. Add both weight training and cardiovascular exercise in your routine. Yoga is particularly helpful in managing stress as it allows you to stay more in the present, while still working on strength and flexibility.

3: Eat Well
Avoid highly processed foods and foods with a high sugar content. Eat about 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Choose lean meats. When you make a commitment to eating healthier you will lose weight, feel better, and have less stress.

4: Maintain social interaction
A lack of social support can cause isolation, loneliness and increase stress. Research shows that maintaining close relationships with friends and family can help you power through challenging times and keep your mood elevated.

Committing to a healthier lifestyle and prioritizing self care is the best buffer against stress. You have so much more control over stress than you might think. These 4 self care areas are the foundation for creating a lifestyle which can help you manage your stress and live a calmer, healthier life. After all you deserve it.