button RelaxThese days, stress is epidemic. But it doesn’t have to be. Regardless of what you’re dealing with in life, you can learn to manage your stress levels. Here are a few tips to remember the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Your mind believes what you tell it to, so examine your perspective. Are you choosing your thoughts and words carefully? Or are you just letting the waves of stress wash over you without exerting any control over your mental situation? Try shifting your focus to positive thoughts. When you hear yourself having thoughts such as, “I can’t do this,” actively try to think this instead: “It’s going to be a challenge, but I can overcome.”

Ask yourself this: “What am I really stressed about?” Are you worried about things that actually exist? Or merely potential situations? The author William Ralph Inge wrote, “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due,” and that’s a true statement. You wouldn’t pay your financial interest before it’s due, so why do that with your emotional state? Instead, think through whether your concerns are within your control. If you determine that your stress is coming from things that you have no control over, work to let go of those negative thoughts. Surrender. Take a breath and visualize a successful outcome.

To release your hold on negativity and stress, think and act positively. Ever heard the phrase “Fake it ‘til you make it?” That works. If you act as though you’re a person free of stress and unnecessary concerns – if you smile, socialize, take relaxation breaks, and so on – you’re more likely to become that person you’re acting like.

Create an environment that encourages you to relax and let go of stress. Put on music that soothes you or makes you feel good; use essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, or chamomile to ease anxiety; place calming flowers (like orchids) where you can see them. You can also light candles and take a warm bath, or just go out and take a walk in nature. Engaging your senses will quickly rebalance your system.

Exercise has so many benefits. One is that it releases chemicals called endorphins into your bloodstream. These give you a feeling of happiness and overall well-being. Some forms of exercise, like running and swimming, have meditative effects that help alter your consciousness though breathing patterns. Others, like tennis, boxing, and weightlifting, help you channel your stress or anger through exertion. So pick which feels best for you and start moving.

Remember to breathe. Breathing helps you let things go. Slow, deep breathing helps activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us calm down. With each inhale, through your nose, allow your abdomen and ribcage to expand as your lungs fill with air. Exhale, though your mouth, allowing (but not forcing) the air to completely leave your lungs. Repeat. Practice this for a few minutes several times a day. Your body will adjust quickly and your stress will start to vanish.