Super-sized Stress: Manage it Like a Pro !

By Joe Piscatella, Founder and president of the Institute for Fitness & Health


A whopping 89 percent of us say our stress is overwhelming. So what's the true impact of all this stress on our health and what can we do about it? Try these three activities to help manage your own stress:


Put goals and values in perspective by thinking about your own epitaph. Many people experience chronic, daily stress because their lives are not in sync with what they believe to be important. Writing your own epitaph is often useful in helping to put your goals and values into perspective. If you were to die today, what would go on the headstone based on the way you are presently living? Then ask yourself if that's how you'd like to be remembered.


If you are a workaholic, perpetually stressed-out person who doesn't spend much time with your family, you may end up writing, "Here lies the best marketing consultant on the West Coast." If you would rather have it read, "Here lies a great parent and a wonderful spouse," you may realize that your true values, priorities and goals are inconsistent with how you actually live. Putting balance in your life will help you to manage your stress and achieve greater satisfaction. It'll also help you be more consistent in eating well and being physically active. 


Expect the unexpected and build a cushion into your day. Chronic stress (or more accurately, "distress") can have a terrible impact on your heart health. In addition to driving people to make poor lifestyle decisions such as skipping exercise, eating too much fast food or smoking, such stress is also connected to elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, blood clotting and arterial inflammation. 


For many people, prolonged stress is the result of never having enough time. We live in a hurried, harried and "stressed out" society, where many people simply do not have enough time for their overscheduled and workaholic lives. Learn to expect the unexpected and build a cushion into your day. Instead of cramming your schedule, fill it to 80 percent, leaving 20 percent for traffic jams, family illness and other surprises.


Get active to mellow out. Scientists have found that hostile people -- those with high levels of cynicism, anger and aggression -- are at a much higher risk of developing heart disease and other chronic illnesses than their more easygoing counterparts.  So, what helps to control anger? You've heard the answer before -- exercise! Exercise produces those "feel good" endorphins, which can also help to mellow out hostility.