Modern life is so full of challenges, and sometimes the problems—such as your kids, work, and marriage—take over.

Finding time for yourself can be difficult if not impossible, so the stress accumulates without you even noticing. Because you can rarely relax, the complications gradually build up.

Why Do We Get Stressed?

In the beginning, stress was a necessary defense mechanism to help survive various dangers to ourselves and our families, such as attacks by predators. After all, it’s difficult to think about dinner when the meal might be you! It’s clear that basic stress was helpful back then, allowing our species to continue its survival. On the down side, however, it interferes with normal human functions, such as the brain processes, digestion (intestines), and even breathing. When people are stressed enough, they can even run 10 seconds without breathing (using the anaerobic alactic energy system) or without sugar in the blood for 40 to 120 seconds (using the lactic anaerobic energy system).

Concentrating all our efforts like this is aimed at achieving one of two things: fight or flight. This survival reflex is only supposed to act for short periods, but these days, we stress about things all through the day and even night sometimes. Once we’ve rescued ourselves from a potential predator, we can use our brains and digestive systems normally again, because both these functions are important for survival.

When you’re constantly stressed, your vital functions are also disturbed constantly, and this leads to health problems. Stress also causes certain preexisting conditions—such as asthma, migraine, diabetes, and so on—to get worse.

Signs of Stress

When your body is under too much stress, it starts ringing alarm bells. If you’re experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, you better do something about it:

  • Fatigue, especially in the morning, which cannot be relieved by sleep
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Anxiety, irritability, and nervousness
  • Rheumatism, periarthritis, arthritis
  • Twitching, such as in the neck and back, and cramps
  • Sexual dysfunction and decreased libido
  • Memory loss and forgetfulness
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Depression

Five Steps to Fight Stress

1) Exercise

Exercise is a natural way to trigger the secretion of endorphins, hormones that give you a feeling of wellbeing. They give you a more positive outlook on life, and the yin is balanced with the yang. It is better to hit a punching bag than your children or spouse! The more intense your training is, the more endorphins are secreted. It’s not the quantity of exercise but rather the quality that counts. It’s better to do a five-minute intense workout than a half-hour walk, subject to your health condition of course.

2) Take your time

Take enough breaks. Don’t work nonstop for seven days a week like many executives and athletes do. Enjoy the weekends! Leave your work environment and think about something else. During your daily lunch breaks, take your time and eat slowly, and talk about something other than work! This way you won’t disturb your digestion, and you’ll release the pressure you’ve built up over the morning. This way, your body recovers from stress.

3) Avoid Stimulants and Unplug Yourself from the Cloud!

Sugary food and drinks, coffee, and cigarettes give you an immediate feeling of relief. In a similar way, PCs, iPads, and smartphones have addictive effects. Unfortunately, the feeling is misleading because it merely masks the symptoms—you’re actually in great need of something. Even if cigarettes are legally and socially permitted, they have extremely harmful effects on the body, such as addiction and the stress that comes when you can’t get your fix.

Certain foods can also increase your stress levels. The intestines are like a second brain, and they can hardly cope with foods like:

  • Lactose, which is found in dairy products
  • The gluten present in wheat-based foods such as bread

These foods only appeared in our diet during the Neolithic age, five to ten thousand years ago. Before that, the human body never experienced these foods, except for the mother’s milk from breastfeeding.

4) Meditate and Relax

Making time for yourself helps eradicate nerve and muscle tension, which are major causes of stress. There are some techniques to help you relax, such as massage, yoga, meditation, relaxation therapy, stretching, hypnosis, and even napping! Find out which suits you the most and leaves you on a cloud of happiness.

5) Take It Easy!

In cases of stress, stop for a few moments and take a deep breath. Breathe in, and when you breathe out, tell yourself, “There are no tigers here. Tomorrow, I will wake up alive, just like every other day.” Whatever your problem is—whether it be work, an exam, or a divorce—nothing is as dangerous as an attack from a tiger! Focus on one task at a time and forget the rest. Write down everything you need to do in order of importance. Don’t just think about your problems—think about what you can bring to others!