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Life is stressful. Unfortunately, there’s no way around that fact of life. As much as you’d like to, you can’t control stressful situations, but you can definitely control how you cope with the stressors. By finding healthy ways to manage stress, you can prevent negative consequences of stress, like depression and cardiovascular disease.

But we all know that everyone is different, so how you choose to manage your stress will be unique to you. Here are five healthy, research-informed ways to help reduce stress. Not all five things may float your boat, so choose what works best for you.

1. Take a Break

It may seem difficult to get away from a big research paper at school or a difficult work task, but when you give yourself a break from it, even for just a few minutes, you may get a new perspective on the situation. Or, at the very least, you can take a few deep breaths or go for a walk to help you feel less overwhelmed. However, It’s important to not avoid your stress completely (if you don’t turn in your paper, you’ll get an F; if you stop working for too long, you’ll get fired)!

2. Exercise

Research is pretty conclusive: exercise helps your body and mind. A short 20-minute stint of exercise while you’re stressed out can give you an immediate effect that will also last for several hours. It doesn’t have to be something as hardcore as running or swimming… going for a walk or dancing to your favorite tunes for 20 minutes count, too!

3. Smile

You may not have known that your brain is interconnected with your emotions and facial expressions. When people are stressed, they often hold a lot of the stress in their face. So laughing or smiling can help relieve some of the stress you’re keeping in your face. Research has also shown that smiling for a couple of minutes, even if just a little (also known as a “half smile”), leads to improved mood and decrease in stress.

4. Meditate

Meditation and mindful prayer help the mind and body to relax and focus. Mindfulness can help people see new perspectives, develop self-compassion and forgiveness. When practicing a form of mindfulness, people can release emotions that may have been causing the body physical stress. Much like exercise, research has shown that even meditating briefly can reap immediate benefits.

5. Seek out Support

Social support can be one of the best ways to relieve stress because you’re no longer in it alone. It doesn’t matter if it’s via phone, text, chat, or email. The important part is that the support you’re seeking is from someone you trust, understands you, and supports you. If you can’t rely on your classmates or coworkers for that kind of support, seek out support elsewhere.

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Need more support in handling your stress? Contact Dr. Crystal I. Lee for a free 20 minute consultation to see how she can help.