Stress is a normal part of life. We all experience it, from children to adults. Unfortunately, there’s no avoiding it; but we do have the choice of how we handle it. We can ignore it, adopt unhealthy lifestyle choices, or tackle it head-on by becoming informed and proactive with how we react.

Finding ways to cope with stress in a positive way will help us lead happier and healthier lives. Let’s take a look at a few ways to find care and support that will help reduce those stressful feelings and symptoms.

Healthy Ways to Deal with Stress:

Acceptance. We do not have control over every situation in our lives but taking our focus from what we can’t control and putting it on what we can may help reduce stress. This can also lead to finding constructive solutions. One idea would be to make a list of what you can and cannot control. Don’t waste any more time on what is out of your control but rather focus on the things you have the power to change.

Journaling. Taking 5-15 minutes a day to write down your thoughts and emotions will allow you to work out anxious feelings and will help you confront them. Journaling works best when done consistently, but even sporadic journaling can be stress relieving when you focus on gratitude or emotional processing. Journaling allows you to gain valuable self-knowledge and is a great problem-solving tool. Remember that this is for you. There’s no need to worry about grammar or spelling.

Take care of your body. Regular exercise is not only good for your body but it’s also good for your mind. Studies show that it is very effective in reducing fatigue while improving alertness and concentration. This can be extremely helpful when stress has depleted your energy. Healthy diets, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins, can help counterbalance the impact of stress by strengthening the immune system and boosting your mood. Avoid high levels of caffeine, which slows down the production of the feel-good hormone, serotonin. Also on the list to avoid are processed sugars, which causes blood sugar levels to spike and crash, doing the same to your energy levels. In addition, getting 8 hours of sleep and drinking plenty of water can make a noticeable difference in anxiety levels.

Meditation. Meditation is about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. Learning to observe your thoughts and feelings can bring a sense of calmness, focus, and balance as well as limits worrying thoughts. It may feel “alien” at first but can have wonderful benefits on focus and mood. Researchers from John Hopkins University found that general meditation programs helped ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain related to stress.

Unwind and Find Purpose. Do something that makes you happy. Finding time to pursue your interests and hobbies will nourish your spirits and helps define us as individuals. Play the sport you love, enjoy nature, pursue artistic and musical endeavors, or focus on your home improvement projects. Sometimes using your spare time can also include helping others. Proactively helping others allows you to gain some sense of control while finding purpose in your life. Giving support can be just as beneficial as receiving it.

Connect with others. Don’t keep your feelings inside…speak to someone. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member and “let it out” or seek counseling to help navigate and explore your feelings. Being able to get your feelings off your chest can be a relief and helps reduce the burden of emotional overload.

With no way to avoid stress and anxiety, focusing on ways to help smooth the “rough waters” and taking charge of our reaction is key to our happiness.