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Chronic stress has become a national epidemic across America for all ages.

The predominant group that seems to experience stress the most is Generation X and Millenials. The factors come down to a series of things: socioeconomic status, environment, genetics, and coping skills. But, what is stress? When we’re stressed, hormones like cortisol flood our systems, producing the “fight or flight response” in which our heart rate goes up, we breathe more heavily (requiring more oxygen) and our blood vessels constrict.

While in the pre-civilization world, the increased blood flow to our heart and muscles helped us escape from predators and dangerous situations, we find ourselves in a very different position now.

Our bodies can’t tell the difference between an approaching grizzly bear and a ticked off spouse or a particularly epic traffic jam, so our stress response is triggered when there’s no imminent danger.

Instead of helping us to escape, this can contribute to chronic conditions like hypertension and headaches, as well as mental health concerns like depression and anxiety disorders. What’s more, stress can make other conditions — like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia — worse.

The good news? Just as we have a stress response, we also have a “relaxation response,” during which your breathing slows, your blood pressure decreases and you even use less oxygen, reports the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. As we can see, stress plays a large part in our long-term health.

Here 3 ways we can help destress and get back into focused equilibrium.

1. Meditate. Although meditation has become a fad, it has shown to lower cortisol, increase focus and reduce the fight and flight response.

2. Go For Walk or Run. Change your state. Do not sit and dwell on negative thoughts. Getting out and doing something physical not only changes your environment where you might gain perspective but is also great for your overall physical health.

3. Journal. Research has shown that writing out your feelings not only helps with perspective but also helps the cathartic experience, and the release of those emotions gives you the freedom to move on

Also, check out our blog on the 1-minute meditation and try it out.

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