Human beings are amazing, quizzical creatures. We can simultaneously dread something, yet not be able to imagine existing without it. Universally, we have a great distain for stress, thus the fight or flight reflex. We look forward to vacations to "get away from it all," but we check our email constantly when we are away. We pine for the day we can retire and forget about deadlines and quarterly numbers, and, at the same time, we love our jobs. It’s the great paradox of being human.

Despite our desire to live a relatively stress-free existence, we are constantly adding new things to increase stress. We get married, have children, remodel our homes, vigorously pursue promotions, etc. Only the foolhardy would attempt all we do without mentally bracing for the accompanying stressors. Still, we bravely charge forward.

Why? Because we determine that the juice is worth the squeeze. The smart ones understand that anything worth doing won't come without challenges. However, the truly wise also understand that if you can learn to master stress -- versus falling prey to it -- the journey is easier. Here are four ways to minimize stress.

1. Do something active every day.

Exercise has the remarkable ability to improve both physical and -- often overlooked -- mental health. Going for a brisk walk, running five miles or lifting weights all accomplish the same mental health objective. They take your mind off of what's ailing you and provide a temporary break from that anxiety. It's the equivalent of hitting the reset button, allowing you to get a fresh re-start to your day. The recent popularity of "walk and talk" meetings was spurred by research that suggests walking encourages creative thinking.

2. Keep things in the proper perspective.

If you've done this exercise: "If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?" the response will likely include, "don't worry, things will work out." In retrospect, it's typical for us to look back on things that stressed us and realize how trivial they were. In the moment, though, it never feels that way. The burden can be crushing, as if the weight of the world is on us.


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