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Tell me if this sounds like you: You have a quiet, carefree life. Your job is rewarding and relaxing, and your days and weeks flow smoothly. You make more than enough money and you have a perfect work-life balance. Your kids are perfect angels and your dogs never bark.

You have plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors and exercise regularly, and you're hardly ever stressed NO?

This doesn't sound like you?

Well, consider yourself normal.

Every person deals with a least a moderate amount of stress, but it's how we deal with it that has an impact on our health.

Stress is the body's natural defense against danger, or at least, perceived danger. Your body flushes your system with hormones to prepare it for confronting danger. Your body will react to stress in a number of ways. Your pulse rate and blood pressure will rise, your breathing will get faster, digestive system slows along with immunity functions and your muscles will tense. Most of these bodily functions will cause you to lose sleep too.

Chronic stress has a number of negative effects on your health and can contribute to diseases like heart disease, diabetes, strokes, depression, anxiety and various digestive disorders.

There are a number of ways to manage or prevent your stress from negatively impacting your health:

- Exercise is a great way to improve both your physical and mental state.

- Reduction of chemicals that can make stress worse. (Caffeine, alcohol and drugs.)

- Proper nutrition, as a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables helps maintain the immune system during times of high stress.

- Talking or "letting off steam" with family, friends or trusted coworkers is a great way to release some thoughts or stressors.

- Deep breathing, meditation and relaxation. These techniques can slow down the system and help you relax.

There are a couple of free apps, like Calm and Headspace, that I have begun using this year to help with sleep and focus, along with relaxation and stress relief. Check them out!

Brett Blythe is the health and wellness director at the Jefferson City Area YMCA. Blythe has a bachelor's degree in exercise physiology/strength and conditioning from Lindenwood University and a master's degree in athletics and recreation administration from William Woods University.

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