Stress is wearing us out and wearing us down. Every day stress causes people to have headaches, stomach problems, neck and back aches, disrupted sleep—and the list goes on and on. Stress is responsible for missed days of work, diabetes, mobility problems, high blood pressure, heart problems, and depression. Those are just a few of the health issues we are dealing with that are related to stress.

If you do not start to reduce your stress you are making a choice that will influence the rest of your life. Your health will suffer and thereby affect everything else. Your relationships and your happiness are greatly impacted when you let stress takeover your life.

I believe the most important thing we can do in our lives is take care of our health. Once we have that in place, the possibilities for a great life are limitless.

There are ways to reduce stress and make your life happier and healthier. I do not talk about eliminating all stress, because there is such a thing as good stress. Good stress is that excitement you feel when you look forward to a happy event or when you challenge yourself with an exciting project. When I talk about reducing stress, I am focusing on the bad stress that can only hurt you.

By taking care of your health a little bit at a time, you can reduce your stress in a manageable way. Stress is actually your reaction to an event or situation. It is your perception that you need to change, but before you attempt to change your perspective on outside circumstances, you need to take care of the inside. Once you start taking care of your health and make it a priority, you will find that you are able to handle situations and circumstances that used to enrage, upset, or annoy you. When you make your health a priority and good health your choice, everything will fall into place.

There are three steps you can take, today, and start reducing your stress immediately.

1) Breathe

When you are stressed your breathing tends to become shallower and your body suffers because of this. You are not getting oxygen to all the parts of your body that need it, and you will not handle things as well. You will not have optimum body or brain function. And you need your brain working! The human brain makes up only 2 percent of your body weight; however, it consumes 20 percent of the oxygen you breathe in.

You can actually increase your creativity and learning power by taking a few minutes to relax and breathe deeply before starting any new project. Here’s how to practice your deep breathing:

Put your right hand on your stomach, right below your rib cage. That is where your diaphragm is. You want your stomach to rise when you breathe deeply; your hand will help you determine if it is. Now, you are going to breathe in through your nose and you want to see your hand rise. If your chest rises, you aren’t getting the breath in deeply enough. Then you will let the air out through pursed lips and empty the air out completely. Do this three times.

Three deep breaths can make all the difference in the world. You may stop yourself from saying something you will later regret, or you may stop yourself from reacting to someone or a situation with anger. You will also be giving yourself a few seconds to evaluate where you want to go with a conversation.

This is also a wonderful technique to use throughout your day to stay calm and be present, and is one of the best stress reducing strategies I can offer to you—use it!

2) Sleep

One of the most important things you can do for your health and also to combat stress is to get enough sleep. I know you are may be thinking—yeah right. I have too much to do, etc. But why does sleep always suffer?

Sleep is so important to our health. We get irritable when we don’t rest enough. We are not as creative and we cannot think as sharply. We lose focus during the day. We also can end up eating more. There are hormones that control your appetite that get out of whack when you don’t get enough sleep. Some of you may have noticed that when you haven’t slept well, you are hungrier the next day and you crave carbs. That isn’t your imagination. It is a physical result of not getting enough sleep.

Most adults need about eight hours to function at peak efficiency during the day. So, how do you go about getting enough sleep? I am going to tell you. You make it a priority. You don’t hope it will happen, you might get lucky and maybe you’ll get to bed early…you make it a priority. You establish a bedtime and you just do it.

You could put it on your calendar, just as you would any other important appointment. You tell other people that you live with, that this is a priority, and ask them to be quieter. Then you put in ear plugs, and go to bed.

Turn off the computer. There will always be work to do. It’s not as if you are actually going to finish all your work if you stay up.

Turn off the television and set the tape or Tivo programs for the weekend.

Why is sleep the thing that always gets neglected? It should be a priority in our lives---it is that important for good health.

If you have trouble falling asleep, it may help to establish a routine. A hot shower or bath before bed can help you relax. Having a book or magazine waiting for you next to your bed for ten minutes of reading could be helpful.

You may want to examine your diet. Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the four to six hours before bedtime can disrupt your sleep. A small amount can help induce sleep initially, but it invariably disrupts deep sleep cycles later.

Avoid heavy meals three hours before bedtime.

Some snacks before bed that are high in tryptophan, which promotes sleep are dates, figs, milk, turkey and whole grain crackers.

Try moving your bedtime up fifteen minutes at a time. Consistency in your bedtime and waking time is also very good for you. Your body gets used to regular sleep cycles and you will wake up more rested.

Regular and enough sleep can make all the difference in the way you approach each day and how healthy you will stay. You will reduce your stress and see the results very quickly.

3) Drink Water

Water should be a part of everyone’s day. Lots and lots of water.

The human body is two-thirds water. Water is an essential nutrient that is involved in every function of the body. It helps transport nutrients and waste products in and out of the cells. We need it for all digestive, absorptive, circulatory, and excretory functions. It helps us utilize all of the water-soluble vitamins. We also need it to maintain proper body temperature. By drinking enough water each day, you can ensure that your body has all it needs to maintain good health.

As soon as you get up in the morning, have a glass of water. For some of you, that is not a problem, but I know for many of you that will seem like a big deal. Get over it. If you drink it first thing in the morning, you get a glass out of the way. During the day, you can keep a bottle or glass near you to remind you to drink it.

If you suffer from headaches, you may be dehydrated. Before you reach for over- the-counter meds, drink a big glass of water. You are inviting stress, anxiety, and that feeling of “being annoyed’ into your life when you don’t drink enough water.

If you are not sure if you are drinking enough, here is a little trick. Take your weight, divide that number in half, and that number in ounces in the least amount your body needs. If you drink caffeine or alcohol, add more. When you exercise, add more.

Do not be fooled by the simplicity of these suggestions. You can make the choice to continue feeling anxious and stressed or make the choice to start feeling better, calmer, and healthier.

Three quick tricks—what have you got to lose? Oh yeah, your stress.

© 2010 Diana Fletcher

Author's Bio: 

Diana Fletcher is the Stress Reducing Expert Coach, Speaker and Author. Her latest book, Reduce Your Stress Month by Month Stress Reducing Strategies is available at You can reach Diana at and receive her 25 Tips to Reduce Your Stress and additional articles.