Don’t let stress derail all your fitness goals, efforts

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Most of our lives are full of stress, and that can take a toll on our body and health. Long-term uncontrolled stress can cause chronic conditions like high blood pressure, headaches, ulcers and unwanted wrinkles. Stress can also weaken our body’s natural defenses leaving us more susceptible to catch colds and feel fatigue set in.

Want to cut stress?

• Set priorities. We don’t always have the luxury of saying no to some of our daily tasks, so stay organized by making a list of everything that is mandatory that you do. Prioritize your list so you can take care of the most important items first. It feels really good to check items off that list.

• Just say no. If you don’t have time for or can’t realistically accomplish someone’s request without straining yourself, do not agree to it. In most cases, people will understand that you need to put yourself first. This is always extremely tricky for a lot of people. Know that your needs are important!

• Stay positive. Stress is the way your body reacts to the situation you’re in — but it is controllable. Maintain a positive attitude and keep yourself calm.

• Burn off your stress. Go for a brisk walk or bike ride, or lift weights to let off some steam. Exercise causes the body to release endorphins — chemicals that help you feel better — which help reduce your stress level. Join a group exercise class if you need the motivation — it’s fun, and it takes your mind off that to-do list for a little while.

• Practice deep breathing. When we get stressed out, our breathing tends to speed up and we take shallow breaths. So, take a break and sit somewhere comfortable and quiet to focus on taking deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly.

• Treat yourself! If you had an unusually stressful day or just finished a big, stressful project, go ahead and reward yourself! No, not with food, of course, but with something that will help you relax. How about a pedicure or massage, a long bubble bath, or a great book you can curl up with?

There is nothing worse than feeling the strain and pull from another individual, work, chores or kids. Deal with what needs immediate attention — but remember, if you don’t take care of “you,” who else will?

Natalie Dreger is a certified fitness professional and can be reached at nataliedreger.com.

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