The experts agree that too much stress is unhealthy. But chilling out all the time isn’t the ideal solution. University of California psychiatrist Dr. Wendy Mendes says that our bodies need to occasionally experience stress to keep us in top form, mentally and physically. That’s because stress pumps adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. It also boosts our breathing and heart rate like we’re on a treadmill. And it improves our brain’s ability to focus and solve problems. In other words, a healthy dose of stress pumps us up and motivates us to do our best just like an athlete getting ready for a big game.

But, how do you tell when you’ve crossed from the world of “good stress” into bad? One big sign is how often you feel stressed. Experts say that good stress usually happens around a specific event – like giving a speech. So, it has a beginning and an end. But stress that never goes away is unhealthy - like sitting at your desk all day with your shoulders hunched up around your ears. The intensity of your feelings is another issue. If a work deadline has you tense for a day or two, that’s one thing. But if you dread going into work every day, it won’t be long before your health, productivity, and relationships suffer. So, how can you keep your stress levels under control?

  • Stress management expert Debbie Mandell says first, take a few deep breaths. Which signals your brain to stop releasing stress hormones and lowers your heart rate.

  • Then, get up and do something physical. Hitting the gym is ideal. But, just walking to the copier, or to the elevator and back helps. That’s because physical activity helps burn off stress hormones, and returns our blood chemistry to normal.