Stress is a normal and natural response to dangers presented to human beings in the environment. If we see a lion approaching us, the stress this causes our heart rate to increase and our breathing to speed up as our bodies prepare us to either fight or flee. 

But when stress lasts for more than a short period of time because we’re facing pressure from the loss of a job, some external trauma or a global pandemic, it can have detrimental impacts on our overall health. 

Here are 8 things you can do to lower your overall stress levels and hopefully avoid the negative health impacts of prolonged stress. 

1. Be observant. 

Recognize signs of excessive stress. These include difficulty sleeping, being easily angered or irritable, feeling depressed, and low energy.

2. Exercise regularly. 

Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and reduce stress.

3. Schedule regular times for a relaxing activity. 

Activities that use mindfulness or breathing exercises, such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi, may help.

4. Get enough sleep. 

Adults need about 7 or more hours of sleep per night. School-age children need 9–12 hours, while teenagers need 8–10 hours. 

5. Set goals and priorities. 

Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much.

6. Build a social support network. 

Stay connected with people who can provide emotional support. 

7. Show compassion for yourself. 

Note what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day, not what you’ve failed to do.

8. Seek help. 

Talk to a health care provider if you feel unable to cope, have suicidal thoughts, or use drugs or alcohol to cope. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

This article is courtesy of NIH News in Health.