Life in the 21st century is exposing all of us to stress in some form or another. Its inevitable. As individuals we experience stress in different ways and in different forms. Whereas some people can handle stress easily, others will suffer. Its all down to the individual. A good example of this is when your stuck in your car, on the motorway or freeway. Three or four lanes of traffic at a complete standstill. For some drivers its not a problem, but there will be other drivers who find it all too much. The person who has got up late for work. The truck driver who has to deliver by a certain time. The family on their to the airport who will miss their flight. These people will all suffer some form of stress.

These situations or circumstances are known as 'stressors' they put your body into stress mode and will trigger off certain responses. It causes your body to react by releasing certain hormones into your blood stream and in turn cause's increased heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. This in turn causes anxiety and makes you irritable and bad tempered.

Stress can be divided into four main areas. The first one being eustress, which is widely regarded as 'good' stress. Eustress is a natural reaction by your body which increases blood flow to your muscles resulting in a higher heart rate. Athletes getting ready for a competition or a company manager about to make a major presentation would fit into this category. 
The second type of stress is distress. This occurs during our daily routines, such as the traffic jam example above, waiting in a queue, work related problems, inconsiderate people or drivers, difficult children, problems with neighbours, the list is endless.
The third is acute stress. Acute stress would be caused by a sudden unexpected occurrence, such as a family bereavement, being made redundant, being involved in an accident or being mugged. However the worst form of stress is known as chronic stress and is a long term situation where the body is under constant pressure. Some examples would be depression, loneliness, health concerns and debt. Over a prolonged period of time these can lead to serious illness. Long term stress can result in physical or mental health problems even to the extent of a nervous breakdown.
But how can we overcome stress. There are many ways to overcome stress but the first thing is to understand what is causing the problem. Once you have sat down and thought it through, pin pointed the cause you can then start to do something about it. This sounds easy but for some the answer may be staring them in the face but they refuse to accept it. It may be a case of sitting down with your spouse, family or best friend for a completely honest talk. In some situations the answer could be   something as simple as changing jobs, and its just the thought of a new job that's causing the stress. People don't like change.

A few of the better known methods of combating stress include:-

Exercise. Regular exercise is well known as a stress reliever. You should choose an exercise that will suit you personally, whether its walking, cycling, resistance training or lifting weights. Remember to start off with short periods of exercise and gradually build up. Always exercise on a regular basis, 30 minutes a day, rather than go mad for three hours on a Saturday morning.

Meditation. This is a underrated choice as many people see it as 'pie in the sky' However, it has been proven as a very effective method of combating stress. Besides  increasing your immune system, it relaxes you and reduces anxiety, it will bring your heart rate and blood pressure down. Meditation acts as a shield against stress. Yoga can also be practised with similar results. 

Laughter can be very beneficial in helping to relieve stress. Every now and then let your hair down, relax and have a good laugh, don't be afraid to let yourself go. Whether its down the pub or bar with friends, or at home with a good comedy film or television programme.

How about putting time aside for your recreational activities. Indulging in your hobby, as long as its fairly slow paced, is a way of getting your mind off any nagging problems and keeping the tension down. Painting, gardening, writing and fishing are a few examples.

Once you feel that you have your stress under some control you should start to work on stress prevention. Try not to put yourself in a position that you know could cause you stress. Control your surroundings. If you know that your going to get caught in the six o'clock traffic rush then leave early or hang around for while, grab a coffee, read a book. If shopping in a crowded supermarket stresses you out, go early in the morning or late at night, or even shop online. There is always a way around the problem. Always try and be positive. Never be afraid to talk to someone about how you feel, talking helps, it gets it all out in the open, and you will be surprised just how good you feel about yourself.