Stress is a factor in all our lives, driving us to achieve goals, stay motivated, and maintain an active interest in day-to-day life. But raising stress above your personal comfort level can have a negative effect on your overall health. Many people incorrectly assume that a susceptibility to stress is a sign of personal weakness or cause for embarrassment, but stress affects everyone and manifests itself differently in different people.

Stress is proven beyond doubt to make people ill, and evidence is increasing as to the number of ailments and diseases caused or worsened by stress. It is now known to contribute to heart disease, causes hypertension and high blood pressure, and impairs the immune system. Stress is also linked to stroke, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ulcers, diabetes, muscle and joint pain, miscarriage, allergies, alopecia (hair loss) and even premature tooth loss.

Stress relief methods are many and various. There is no single remedy that applies to every person suffering from stress, and most solutions involve a combination of remedies. Successful stress management frequently relies on reducing stress susceptibility and removing the stressors, and often factors will be both contributing to susceptibility and to a direct cause.

The two simplest ways to reduce stress susceptibility, and in many situations alleviate stress (although not removing the direct causes of stress itself) are available to everyone, cost nothing, and are guaranteed to produce virtually immediate improvements. They are diet and exercise.

DIET: The rule is simple and inescapable: eat and drink healthily, and avoid excessive intake of toxins.

Concentrate on fresh, natural foods like vegetables and fruit. Include beans and fish and always read ingredient labels. Avoid processed foods, hydrogenated fats (eg. margarine), sauces, fizzy drinks, excess alcohol and chemicals like artificial sweeteners (eg. aspartame) and pills (eg. pain killers).

You have one body for the whole of your life – look after it.

EXERCISE: Physical exercise is immensely beneficial in managing stress. This is for several reasons:

* Exercise releases helpful chemicals in our brain and body that are good for us.

* Exercise distracts us from the causes of stress.

* Exercise warms and relaxes cold, tight muscles and tissues which contribute to stressful feelings.

* Exercise develops and maintains a healthy body which directly reduces stress susceptibility.

It can be as simple as regular stretching and a brisk walk at lunch, so don’t get stressed… GET MOVING!!

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