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Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, and stress plays a huge role in increasing its risk.

Our lives have become so busy these days that stress is now part and parcel of our everyday routine. Everyone hears helpful advice like “don’t stress yourself,” but that is easier said than done. However, if you are committed to reducing stress, it really can be done.

Here’s how:

1. Request Extra Hands for Help with Kids

Stress is inevitable in parenting. It can begin as early as pregnancy and once the child is born, no parent is safe from stress. How to change the diapers, when to feed the child, and how to get some sleep in between remain some of the primary stressors that new parents face. Contrary to popular belief, stress does not lessen as your child grows older; it only changes its sources.

At this time, it is important that parents establish a support system. You will often get the most offers of help during pregnancy and immediately after birth. This is no time to be shy. You need to accept all the extra hands you can as it can be virtually impossible to take care of a new-born child alone.

Make sure you acknowledge anyone who is willing to help you and keep a record of them for future reference. Getting help does not mean asking someone to babysit your child for the entire day; it could just mean half an hour while you jump into the shower or 15 minutes to have that badly needed cup of tea.

2. Prioritize Sleep

Sleep deprivation accompanies people of every age during stressful times. Whether you’re a new parent, have an exam, or are working on a challenging office project, you will probably experience sleep deprivation as the direct result of your stress.

To get healthy sleep, reduce your screen time – news hour in particular – as that can lead to even more stress. Instead, use the time to listen to relaxing music. Establish a routine for bed and wake-up times. Make sure you are sleeping in a comfortable setting, with optimal room temperature, no noise or any other kind of disturbance that can ruin your sleep.

3. Eat Right

Since we are extra-busy these days, finding the time to prepare and eat healthy food is difficult to come by. However, junk and fast food are the biggest sources of stress as the harmful ingredients in them can increase our blood sugar and cholesterol, which can result in hypertension and cardiac diseases.

Eating at home often guarantees you are eating the right things. Try to keep nutritious foods at hands like green veggies, fresh fruits, grains, and nuts and incorporate them into your diet as much as possible.

4. Get Exercise

Research suggests that exercise contributes towards reducing stress as it releases dopamine, our happy hormone.

Doing some yoga, practicing tai chi, or performing meditation can bring balance to your hay-wired emotions. If you are extremely worked up, hang a punching bag in your garage and let loose on it whenever you are feeling stressed. Also, try to include early morning running or biking in your schedule. Just an hour of exercise each day can alleviate your stress levels dramatically.

5. Minimize Drama

It is so easy to fall prey to gossip and someone else’s drama, but try not to pay attention to them, especially if you work with a gossip-monger. Malicious feelings, like anger, envy, and resentment, can eat away your feeling of well-being and cause needless stress. Therefore, remove yourself from such situations and encase yourself in a bubble of peace and self-confidence.

6. Take Some Downtime

Many of us live with the misconception that if we don’t think about the fact that we are sick, we will get better; however, nothing could be further from the truth. If you have a viral infection, food poisoning or even the slight flu, it is OK to skip school or work and take out some downtime. Use the day to go offline, get some much-needed rest, and eat healthy.

7. Take Care of Your Emotional Health

Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and nightmares. To reduce this risk, take care of your emotional health. The easiest way to do that is to spend time with your kids, family, friends and loved ones. You don’t have to book a weekend at the Disney World or host expensive dinners. Simply ask them to accompany you to run around the park, or spend 30-minutes if quality time engaging in healthy discussions.

Once you establish these few habits, you will start to feel inner peace, contentment and a feeling of enjoyment.

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