The kids need help with their homework, the new puppy still isn’t housebroken, you have errands to run, and your boss has just scheduled a last-minute meeting. If this sounds like a typical day in your life, it’s no wonder the concept of relaxation may sound foreign.

Although some stress is good for you, continuous stress can have a negative impact on both mental and physical health. Everyone has a unique response to stress, and what coping strategies work best depends on the individual. If you regularly make time for rest and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place when it comes time to handle life’s stressors. Once you discover a strategy that works, practice it regularly so that when you feel like tensing up, relaxation is just one deep breath or yoga class away.

BREATHE. It doesn’t get more basic than this. If you’re living, you’re breathing; you might as well learn to do it in a way that maximizes health benefits. Inhale slowly and deeply, focusing on exhaling while thinking about your abdomen rising and falling with each breath. It may feel awkward at first, but it’s easy to master and can be practiced almost anywhere.

MOVE. Whether your daily regimen includes training for a marathon or simply taking Fido for a walk, even moderate amounts of exercise reduce stress levels, boosts your mood, and improves overall health. Additionally, the activity also shifts your focus away from what’s stressing you. Take the stairs, play at the park with your children, or take a yoga class – which is particularly effective at reducing stress.

SLEEP. Sleep is something many of us take for granted until we don’t get enough of it that is. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body, keeping stress levels at bay and allowing you to tackle the day’s tasks with ease. The body needs around 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and many individuals benefit from a power nap mid-afternoon lasting between 15 and 30 minutes.

PLAN. Being unorganized, coupled with poor planning, often leads to crisis situations – be proactive. Write down everything you need to do and prioritize tasks focusing on the most important activities. Set practical goals for dealing with situations and solving problems. When possible, delegate responsibilities as a means of freeing up time and reducing stress.

DISCONNECT. In a time of constant connectivity, many of us consider relaxation zoning out in front of the television or hovering over our iPad. Although these gadgets appear to make our everyday lives easier, taking a short hiatus from electronics – television, computers, smartphones, tablets – is a simple way to curb stress.

Whether stress is an overwhelming force in your life or something that can be easily controlled, relaxation techniques can be beneficial as a means of improving your health and eliminating tension. Remember to take some time away from the daily stressors of life to explore which relaxation techniques work best for your needs and lifestyle.

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