Someone I know just had a wake-up call. He had a heart attack. Thankfully, his prognosis is very good.

And now his entire life will be different.

This is a post about giving yourself your own wake-up call today, before disaster strikes.

Feeling stressed is an ever-present condition in our society. It’s pervasive, it’s accepted as the norm, and it’s even bragged about. Have you sought to win one of those “Who’s more stressed” contests recently? You know – the ones that masquerade as basic conversations?

“How are you?”

“Well, OK, except my in-laws are coming tomorrow, the cat’s sick, I have two projects due at work in next three days, and I’m pretty sure Johnny’s smoking pot in the garage.”

“I hear you – Carl may get laid off next week, my mom’s going through surgery on the 10th, we may need a new hot-water heater, Julia’s not speaking to me, and my boss is more insane than usual.”

There’s plenty of bad news about stress and how Americans are handling it. Not to stress you out or anything.

Untreated chronic stress can lead to serious health conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.

Stress can also contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity.

Consider these gloomy statements from the American Psychological Association’s 2010 Stress in America Survey:

Americans appear to be caught in a vicious cycle where they manage stress in unhealthy ways.

Lack of willpower and time constraints impede their ability to make lifestyle or behavioral changes.

There also seems to be a troublesome trend emerging among families in which parents are underestimating how much stress their children experience and the impact their own stress has on their children. At the same time, children as young as eight years old are reporting that they experience physical and emotional health consequences often associated with stress.

All of us, including the medical community, need to take stress seriously since stress could easily become our next public health crisis.

It’s time to “chillax”, as my almost-teen enjoys saying, because we want to be here, and we want to be feeling as good as we can. Continuing to let stress run unchecked through our lives will not turn out well for many of us. So why not start addressing stress now?

It’s a big issue, but let’s start small. Try something from this list of stress relievers today. Don’t worry about how you’re not going to completely solve the stress problem. Just do something.

  • Go on a walk.
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  • Eat healthy food.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption.
  • Call a friend.
  • Mindfully meditate for a few minutes.
  • If you’re suffering from chronic stress, consider reaching out to a mental health care professional.

I’d love to hear: What are you doing to chillax?

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