Michael Mantell by Michael Mantell

While more and more people recognize the ill effects of stress and have begun exercising more, eating healthier, meditating and reducing alcohol consumption to reduce their stress level, 75 to 80 percent of us are still dealing with the fatigue, headaches, hypertension, weight gain, weakened immune systems, muscle tension, anger, anxiety, depression and impaired sex drives caused by stress.

So for those of us living with what’s been called today’s number-one proxy killer disease, what are some ways to get it under control? Because there are so many variables that can cause stress, including erroneous thinking, life’s circumstances, glutamate, GABA, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin and CHR/cortisol, this is a difficult question to answer, but I’d suggest trying the following five tips:

1. Be grateful. Say “thank you” as often as you can. It’s a brain train that’ll create the positive neural pathways to promote happiness. Focus on what can go right, not wrong, and be thankful when it does.

2. Unplug. Instead of being swamped by social media, take control of it. USC’s Marshall School of Business claims that by 2015, the average person will spend 16 hours plugged into this burnout and stress-promoting new form of crack. Schedule it into your day instead of letting it run you.

3. Meditate. A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology reported that 54 percent of participants felt anxious while meditating. If getting your “OM” on isn’t your thing, break up your chain of negative thoughts with another repetitive, present-focused, mind-body activity such as jogging, swimming or interval training. Praying can help, too.

4. Be joyful. C’mon, smile! Create positive emotions, spend time fully engaged in an enjoyable task, build and savor healthy relationships (instead of feeding off of other’s stress), find meaning that’s bigger than you in life and feel genuine pride in your accomplishments.

5. Have positive thoughts. Maybe Annie has something here. “…Just thinkin’ about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow…” But just waiting for tomorrow won’t do it. THINKING about tomorrow in hopeful ways and DOING something differently is what clears away the stress-inducing cobwebs of irrational thinking.  Are your thoughts true, helpful, inspirational and necessary, or are you negative about yourself, others and your life in general? We move in the direction of our dominant thoughts, so changing those dominant thoughts to more positive ones prevents and manages stress. Choose the bliss that’s right in front of you.

And remember, STRESS is about Smiling more, Thinking accurately, Reliving positive experiences, Eating well and Sweating more.