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You’ve got a massive work deadline looming, your landlord just let you know that she’s hiking your rent, and your dog tore up your couch. Status update? Stressed.

And you’re not alone: Stress is on the rise among Americans, with millennials reporting the highest levels, according to a 2017 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association. The reality is that there are plenty of things in life that could make you sweat — but while you can’t necessarily do much to change that, you can take some crucial (and simple) steps to handle anxiety in a healthier way.

1. Get to know your stressors

You can’t defuse a bomb if you don’t know where it’s located — similarly, you can’t override your emotional responses if you’re not quite sure what’s triggering your worried thoughts. Are there certain people, situations, or events that often get you worked up? Identify what they are, from relationships to financial pressures. Even better: write a list out in your journal. While you can’t cut these things out entirely, knowing that they’re often the source of your reactions enables you to have heightened awareness in the moment.

2. Cover the basics

Your sister is much more likely to get under your nerves if you’re running on five hours sleep or are feeling hangry. So make sure that you’re ticking off the bare necessities every day. That includes getting enough sleep (the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours a night, FYI), eating nourishing, healthy meals, drinking loads of water, and just generally keeping up the routine that helps you feel your best.

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Photo courtesy of Lena Bell/​Unsplash

3. Add in a new habit

Stress-reducing activities abound — it’s just a matter of finding one that seamlessly works with your routine. Research has shown, time and time again, that meditation helps to quiet the mind and calm the body. Same goes with physical activity — even a 20-minute walking detour on the way home from work can give you a boost. Or keep relaxing essential oils on hand so you can reach for them when you start to feel yourself tense up. Lavender, chamomile, and bergamot are all good options. Opt for a habit that resonates the most with you — and don’t feel pressured to add them all in at once, since you definitely don’t want the de-stressing activities to actually be stressing you out.

4. Create community

Whether it’s calling a parent or planning an impromptu dinner with your BFF, use the network you’ve built up around you for support. Seriously, that’s what they’re there for. Or find a new community by joining a local book club or befriending your fellow yogis in class. And if you’re really struggling with stress, connect with a therapist or psychologist who can help you develop spot-on habits for managing tension. 

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional. [Originally posted 12/13/2017 on schmidts.com/the-natural]