Stress increases blood pressure and hormone levels which are linked to heart disease, stroke, and cancer, and the feeling of anxiety, depression, or loneliness may cause early death. British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a new study linking psychological stress to physical consequences.

The study, as reported at ABC News, was conducted by Tom Russ, a clinical researcher at the University of of Edinburgh in Scotland. Russ had more than 68,000 participants who had symptoms of psychological distress. Researchers used 12 factors like lost sleep and lack of confidence to measure the severity of participants’ psychological distress. Controlled variables were weight, physical activity, and habits (ex: smoking and drinking alcohol). Participants who met 7 out of the 12 criteria were twice as likely to die at an early age than those who met none.

Russ said, “The greater the level of distress, the greater the risk.” With the more stress an individual feels the risk of physical harm increases.

Knowing how to control stress can be a good thing, according to Dr. Redford Williams, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University. “Cognitive behavioral stress management programs have been shown to reduce measures of distress like blood pressure and stress hormone levels,” he said. However, being stress free for life is nearly impossible. Taking baby steps to reduce stress is acceptable, as Dr. Williams said, “Reducing distress is good for your well-being in general. And it has the extra benefit of potentially increasing your life span.

Here are quick and easy steps to help control stress:

1. Identify the source of stress in your life and relieving it will help control your stress level.

2. Physical activity has been proven to lower stress levels. Exercise and physical activity produce endorphins, which act as a natural painkiller. Endorphins can reduce stress.

3. Yoga classes help with meditation or breathing deeply can cause your body to produce endorphins as well. Yoga for stress relief is one of the practice’s many benefits.

4. Drinking hot tea, like chamomile and black tea, helps calm the mind and reduce stress.

5. Laughter releases tension and brings positive physiological changes.

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