You're well on your way to a calmer, more optimistic outlook -- but now the challenge will be to maintain the healthy habits you developed during steps 1, 2, and 3. In step 4, you'll change the way your mind and body react to nerve-racking situations, permanently. Here are your final directions on the road to a stress-free (or at least stress-limited) life.
Eating whole-food sources of essential amino acids can keep you balanced -- and can keep you from running to the cookie jar every time things get tough. Refined carbs can jack up your cortisol levels, while eating more omega-3 fatty acids may help keep this stress hormone in check.
Cutting back on caffeine can also help since constantly stimulating yourself can drain your system. Swap coffee for for green or black tea; you'll still get a mini-boost, but you'll also reap health benefits.
Serenity, exercise, love, and food: Stress expert Kathleen Hall says that's all you need to focus on to stay centered and balanced. This mantra, SELF, for short, has helped her discover that the key to escaping stress isn't about a successful career or financial freedom, but about taking care of these four pillars of happiness.
Hall teaches her students to regularly write about their negative emotions, to give thanks daily for the gifts in their lives, and to always put love and friendship first.
You know that exercise is one of the best ways to keep your mind healthy and upbeat, not to mention its physical benefits. But some days, you're not going to feel up to a cardio-kickboxing class or a run in the park.
That doesn't mean you should just veg on the couch all night, though. Even simple yoga stretches -- that you can do in just minutes a day in your own home -- can give your mind and body a stress-busting boost, especially if your practice is tailored to how you're feeling on any given day.
Stay connected to what's important -- community, faith, health, and your passions -- by honoring regular rituals. Think about what moments are important in your week, be it an energizing wake-up routine or a nightly family dinner, and make a commitment to prioritize them in your life.
Congratulations -- you've reached the end of our Stress-Relief journey. Now it's time to re-examine your stress triggers and coping strategies. Take our final exam to see how much you've learned, where you've improved, and what you should continue to work toward. And before you go, bookmark this page, and make sure you keep our printouts handy: Anytime you're feeling stressed and in need of a refresher course, we're here for you.