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3 Healthy, Harmonious Ways to Reduce Stress

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Not only is stress ...stressful, but it can also lead to chronic health problems like hypertension, heart disease and depression. It can also sabotage even the best beauty routine, causing breakouts and other skin conditions. 

Chilling out can do more than make you feel better—it may also help to extend your life. Yes, it's hard to keep your cool when life is bearing down on you, but that's when we have to remind ourselves that stressing out doesn't solve anything, and it will more often just makes us feel a whole lot worse.

According to WebMD, 43 percent of us experience adverse health due to stress, and at least 75 percent of doctor visits are stress-related.As if that weren't bad enough, it turns out stress can also widen your waistline--something none of us want. Under prolonged periods of anxiety, your body produces the hormone cortisol, which sends a signal to your body to store visceral fat around your midsection. This type of fat is especially dangerous, promoting diabetes, high cholesterol levels and even breast cancer.

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From the Organic Authority Files

According to the Mayo Clinic, the first step in banishing stress is to identify the sources. Take 10 minutes to write down what makes you anxious. Traffic? Arguments with your BF? That nagging neighbor? Once you figure out what sets you off, brainstorm for ways to cope. This might mean changing your work schedule for an easier commute, using more positive ways to communicate with your boyfriend, or avoiding that neighbor. 

1. Meditation

Of course, you can't change everything. When the mountain won't budge, it's time for Mohammed to go to the mountain -- you being Mohammed, of course. If you can't remove the stress, you're just going to need to deal with it, and meditation is an excellent way to do that. Meditation may seem scary if you've never done it, but it doesn't have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as sitting in a quiet room for 10 minutes, focusing only on your breathing. You can also listen to relaxing music as you breathe deeply, paying close attention to the air moving in and out of your body. If you need encouragement, check out a guided meditation DVD or book, or even take a class.

2. Hypnosis

A less conventional— but also often effective—alternative to meditation is hypnosis. I felt very strange the first time I walked into a hypnotist's office for help dealing with performance anxiety; but I quickly became a believer. I was performing in a play and going through a breakup at the same time, which was not the best combo for my nerves. Thanks to three gentle hypnosis sessions, I made it through every performance.

3. Exercise

Ultimately though, exercise is my favorite everyday stress-fighting strategy. With every forceful step on the Stairmaster, I feel more in control of my anxiety. Indeed, science agrees. Exercise makes your brain release endorphins, "happy chemicals" which also work as natural painkillers. Exercise might also help the brain cope with anxiety for lasting results.

Ultimately, much of fighting stress boils down to taking care of your body and mind. Eat nutritious foods, set enough time aside for sleep and nourish your brain with positive people and experiences whenever possible. With the right attitude and a fab strategy, you can beat the stress monster to live a longer, healthier life.

image: RelaxingMusic

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