You’re sitting at your desk, looking at your fingernails. When did you start biting them? They look awful. And why are there three half-empty cups of coffee on your desk? If you don’t bring your car in for an oil change pretty soon, who knows what will happen? Wasn’t today the day you were going to make an appointment to get that mammogram you’ve put off for three years. Or has it been four? Did you send a note to your kid’s teacher explaining why her science project is going to be late? It’s been hard keeping up with her schedule and your own since the divorce. Why won’t that knot in your stomach go away?

Then the phone rings and you’re back in real time. Wow, you’re really behind in your work . . .

Got a lot on your mind? Are you ignoring signals from your body that are telling you to do something about all the stress in your life? See how many of the following statements resonate with you:

  1. I’m aware of my heart beating too fast sometimes.
  2. My muscles are painful or tight.
  3. I go to the bathroom too frequently.
  4. I seem to have a lot of headaches these days.
  5. I feel sick to my stomach or get “butterflies.”
  6. I find myself making bad decisions.
  7. It’s hard to concentrate.
  8. I get angry or frustrated a lot.
  9. I’ve started biting my nails or grinding my teeth.
  10. I seem to get colds way too often.
  11. I’m eating much more (or much less) than usual.
  12. My skin is breaking out or getting rashes.
  13. My blood pressure has been creeping up.
  14. Sex? Are you kidding?
  15. I have trouble keeping track of things.
  16. I’m worried all the time and feel overwhelmed.
  17. I’m using prescription drugs or alcohol to get through the day.
  18. Sleep has become a problem.
  19. Indigestion has become a normal part of my life.
  20. My mind is racing, and I’m focused on negative thoughts.

If too many of these are familiar to you, you need to start doing something to relieve the stress before your health and emotional well-being go drastically downhill. Stress can make you sick.

So what can you do about it?

Here are ten simple suggestions:

  1. Limit the amount of disturbing or violent images you watch. Read the paper or keep informed online instead of watching the news on TV.
  2. Reconnect to the natural world. The snow and ice will melt, and you can sit in the park and eat your lunch with your back against a tree. In the meantime, take a walk outside. At least spend a few minutes looking out the window at the sky.
  3. Play with and pet your dog or cat. Animals are wonderful stress relievers.
  4. Reduce caffeine and try to eat small meals throughout the day with enough protein and fiber. Cut way back on processed food.
  5. Turn off the TV an hour before bed. Take a bath, read a book, stay off the computer and the phone.
  6. Get help with drug or alcohol abuse. Find a 12-step program near you. You’ll be amazed at how much support you’ll receive.
  7. Move your body. Walk, swim, do whatever feels good. Exercise releases endorphins and relaxes you.
  8. Write in a journal, one of the healthiest ways to deal with and release negative emotions.
  9. BREATHE! Whenever you find yourself tensing up, stop for a moment and concentrate on breathing into your abdomen. Breathe positive energy in through your nose, breathe negativity out through your mouth. It’s an instant way to release fear, anger, and anxiety.
  10. Meditate. The number one stress reliever is a regular meditation practice. Find 10-20 minutes a day to sit quietly with your eyes closed (with your cell phone turned off).