Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever increasing demands of life. Surveys show that most Americans experience challenges with stress at some point during the year. In looking at the causes of stress, remember that your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection.

Understanding "Fight-or-Flight"

When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been labeled the “fight-or-flight” response. Once the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal relaxed state. Unfortunately, the nonstop stress of modern life means that your alarm system rarely shuts off.

That’s why stress management is so important. Stress management gives you a range of tools to reset your alarm system. Without stress management, all too often your body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems.

Don’t wait until stress has a negative impact on your health, relationships or quality of life. Start practicing a range of stress management techniques today.

Stop the cycle

You can’t avoid daily stress. But you can keep stress under control which can help prevent headaches. Consider these tips:

  • Simplify your life. Rather than looking for ways to squeeze more activities or chores into the day, leave some things out. Ask yourself what really needs to be done, what can wait and what can be dropped entirely. It’s OK to say no occasionally.
  • Manage your time wisely. Update your to-do list every day both at work and at home. Delegate what you can and break large projects into manageable chunks. Tackle the rest, one task at a time.
  • Be prepared. Organize your day ahead of time. Anticipate challenges. Try to keep your plan flexible, in case a headache strikes and you need to change course.
  • Let go. Don’t worry about things you can’t control.
  • Adjust your attitude. If you find yourself thinking, “This can’t be done,” snap back to attention. Think instead, “This will be tough. But I can make it work.” Putting a positive spin on negative thoughts can help you work through stressful situations.
  • Relax. Set aside time for yourself every day, even if it’s only a few minutes. When you feel your muscles begin to tense, breathe deeply. Focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly for at least 10 minutes.
  • Take a break. If you feel overwhelmed, take some time to clear your mind. A few slow stretches or a brisk walk may renew your energy for the task at hand. Or take a mental vacation. Imagine yourself in a calm, relaxing place.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise is a proven way to prevent and sometimes treat headaches. Exercise also provides a break from the stress of daily life. Be careful to warm up slowly. Sudden, intense exercise can cause headaches.
  • Eat smart. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can give you more energy plus the fuel you need to keep stress under control.
  • Laugh. Humor is a great way to relieve stress. Laughter releases endorphins, natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Change the pace. Occasionally break away from your routine and try something new. A vacation or weekend getaway may help you develop a new outlook.

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