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Stress does more than make your head spin. It has very real effects on your health. Stress runs down your immune system, making you vulnerable to illness and not feeling well. It zaps your energy, drives you to make poor food choices, and can contribute to overeating.

You can’t stop living. The bills keep coming, and family or social drama doesn’t just end. But, you don’t have to let stress undermine your health goals in 2018. At 360 Medical Weight Loss, Dr. Gartner recommends you employ a few strategies to stay on top of stress and deal with it in a healthy, productive way.

Slow Down

Sometimes, stress can be of your own making. You set goals to get everything done, wearing busyness as a badge of honor. But, slowing down and doing less – and experiencing more – can actually be the ticket to a happier stress-free life.

Remind yourself that you don’t have to do all the chores at once – the laundry or dishes can wait. Take time for self-care, such as a hot bath or quiet walk, instead of rushing from one duty to the next. Say “no” when your plate is full, and even if it isn’t, so you can give time to the things that you value – not the things you feel like you have to do.

Reach Out

Remind yourself, “you are never alone.” Instead of reaching for that bag of chips or pint of ice cream when you’re stressed, pick up your phone to call a friend, knock on your neighbor’s door or go for a walk. Community can go a long way in making you feel supported, loved, and heard.

Sleep Right

If you’re overtired, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And, a lack of sleep can also increase your body’s production of hunger hormones that make it easy to overeat and make poor food decisions, such as downing a whole bag of chips or diving into an entire carton of ice cream. While stress and insomnia sometimes go hand-in-hand, make every effort to clean up your sleep hygiene and prioritize a good night of slumber.

Schedule seven to nine hours every night; sleep in a cool, dark room; and develop a ritual – such as reading or meditating – just before you lay down to prepare your body to rest.

Deep Breathing

Breathing is automatic — you do it every day to survive. But conscious, deep breathing isn’t. And, deep diaphragmatic breathing decreases the heart rate, which activates your relaxation response. When you’re feeling stressed, take just a minute or two to sit still. Count to five as you breathe deeply into the diaphragm – located in the lowest part of your torso, above your stomach – and fill up your whole torso with breath. Pause, full of breath, for just a moment and exhale slowly also for a count of five. Take this deep breath five to 10 times and feel your body relax.

Eat Right

Stress can change your appetite, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your body the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients it needs. In fact, stressful times are when it’s even more important to stay on top of your diet. Certain nutrients can even help ease your stressed-out brain by supporting your mental health.

Choose healthy, whole foods with ample amounts of vitamin B, such as lean chicken or beef, leafy greens, raw nuts, and whole grains. Also ensure you’re getting enough of the healthy, unsaturated fat Omega-3 from fatty fish, walnuts, and flax. Omega 3 may even help to reduce symptoms of depression, suggests research.

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