people meditating in yoga

Stress is unavoidable--we all face challenges in our personal, professional, or social lives that can trigger stress. You can't seal yourself off from all frustrations in life, but learning to manage those tumultuous times can be easier if you have a few management tools under your belt. You can try to ease your stress through relaxation techniques, medication, proper diet, and other calming methods, or you could use stress to your advantage.

Stress runs on energy. It makes your heart race, your palms sweat, muddles your mind, and tenses your muscles. But if picturing a relaxing scene or deep breathing just isn't enough to calm your jitters, you can direct that energy towards something more productive. Learn to turn stress into resilience and motivation.

Here are some ways to make stress work for you, not against you:
1. Use it for exercise.
If stress has you worked up, you might as well work out. No matter how you prefer to break a sweat, working out is the best way to get stress out of your system. Not only can it help you clear your mind and sort out the source of your anxiety, but it can also have a positive effect on your body, by releasing endorphins to combat your body's response to stress hormones.

The feel-good chemicals released in your brain when you exercise can help you overcome stress by creating a learned response to exercise. If you exercise enough when you're stressed out, your body will begin to equate the practice with those feel-good chemicals, cutting the negative effects of stress on your body.

2. Use it for work.
Career-related stress seems to occur much more often than those stress-relieving compliments come around. However, you can harness the energy stress brings about and become more productive on the job. Under stress, you may experience a heightened level of awareness and focus. Liken it to final exam time: in normal circumstances, you probably wouldn't be able to complete such a large and intense amount of work in such a concise time. But with the pressure of deadlines, your body and mind floods with stress-induced adrenaline. Use this time to check a heap of projects off your list, and you'll have more uninterrupted downtime later.

3. Use it for play.
Meditation and yoga aren't the only ways to combat stress. If you're wasting too much time stressing out, schedule some time for fun. Believe it or not, playtime is just as important as work in maintaining a sharp and healthy mind. Pencil in some time to see friends, enjoy a show, or explore a new part of town. Packing your schedule full of activities that bring you pleasure is a great way to release stress. Remember: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

4. Use it for art.
Ask any artist and they'll tell you they produce their best work in times of turmoil. Stress, heartbreak, and sadness can be interesting and inspiring. A stressful time in your life could be great motivation to write, paint, draw, sculpt, or play music--even if you've never tried it before. Research also shows that the creative arts are highly effective in channeling away your negative energies.

5. Use it to give.
Use stress as motivation to volunteer with a neighborhood group, get involved with kids, or feed the homeless. Tell yourself, "If I can't help myself, I might as well help other people." Removing yourself from your own problems could help pave the way to finding solutions, and add perspective to a nail-biting day.