Stress can affect every aspect of your life, from your mood to how you physically feel, to your health and relationships. Taking steps to reduce stress is not only good for your mental and emotional health but it can improve your overall health. The first step in reducing your stress is taking a look at what’s causing you stress in your life.

Start with stressors that you can change, and then make that change. For example, maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed at work.

You can’t eliminate every stress in your life, so it’s important to learn techniques to help you better deal with them. The goal is to make your stressors less harmful to your mind and body. That starts with living a healthy lifestyle -- limiting your alcohol and not abusing drugs, including prescription medications – but also eating healthy and exercising. It’s a way of life for firefighter Zach Zimmer.

Zach is a leader on the peer fitness team at his fire department. Exercise keeps them healthy but also gives them an outlet for the stressful things they deal with every day on the job. Another way to relieve stress is by changing the way you think about your stressors and taking control of what they do to your mind and body. Mindfulness Meditation is one technique.

In Mindfulness Meditation, you close your eyes and focus only on what’s happening around you. It could be the noises in the room - or something within your own body, like your heart beat or your breathing. Doing this allows you to stay connected with the present and not get caught up in thoughts about past or future stressors.

Mary Beth Schultz practices meditation and yoga to deal with her stress. She takes care of her elderly mother who suffers from Dementia, and she recently retired.

Visualization is another tool to help cope with stress and to help you relax. It involves thinking about and imagining positive thoughts or outcomes to whatever is causing your stress.

There’s also what’s called Positive Self-Talk. When you encounter a stressor, you tell yourself positive things to get you through the situation.

Christopher Wojnar uses this tool at home and at work. Besides going to school, he’s an intensive care nurse working 2 jobs, so stressful situations are an everyday occurrence. Positive Self-Talk helps him deal with those.

Christopher combines the positive self-talk with exercise and healthy eating, it’s all part of his toolkit for coping with stress. If you feel you can’t control your stress and would like to learn more about self-care or relaxation techniques, talk to a mental health professional.

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