The following post was taken from the 2018 Spring Issue of the Quarterly magazine. To read more, click here.

Believe it or not, stress is essential to survival and can push you to peak performance. However, too much stress can be harmful. Balancing responsibilities can quickly take a toll on our physical and mental health, leading to tension headaches, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety disorders. Before we know it, stress manages us. In fact, women report higher levels of stress than our male counterparts, according to the American Psychological Association. Here are a few tips to help keep it under control:

Keep a gratitude journal

Our daily thoughts influence our overall satisfaction with life. At the end of each day, challenge yourself to write three things you are thankful for. Positive thinking is the first step in changing behavior!

Drink lots of water

You may think the only way to get through the day is by drinking a large cup of coffee or caffeinated beverage, but caffeine is proven to make the body feel more anxious. Staying hydrated is key to managing stress, so aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water every day. Grab a cute, refillable water bottle and take it with you while you’re on the go, in class or at the office.

Try aromatherapy

Dating back to ancient times, the use of aromatherapy can provide holistic healing and stress relief. Aromatherapy uses essential oils—natural, aromatic extractions from plants—to promote well-being. Essential oils are used in many ways and only require a couple of drops! You can apply topically with a carrier oil, add to a hot bath or diffuse throughout your home. Popular oils used to cope with stress include lavender, rose, vetiver and ylang-ylang.

Practice Tai Chi.

Similar to yoga, Tai Chi is an exercise used to reduce stress. While yoga emphasizes flexibility and can be strenuous, Tai Chi focuses on deep breathing and performing a series of movements in a slow, focused manner. Daily exercise is essential, so set small goals and aim for consistency.

Eat blueberries, avocados and dark chocolate

Yummy superfoods can take the edge off of your body’s stress response! When we are stressed, it is often because our bodies lack specific nutrients. To repair and protect our cells, we need vitamin C and antioxidants. For a tasty dose, add blueberries to a serving of plain, low-fat yogurt or high fiber cereal. Vitamin B is also essential for healthy brain nerves and cells. Avocados are rich in these vitamins and high in monounsaturated fat and potassium which helps lower blood pressure. And don’t forget dessert! Eating dark chocolate in moderation helps reduce stress and can also improve heart health.

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