We all know that stress is bad for us. At the very least it makes us crabby and annoyed, less able to have fun, and more obsessive about the myriad details of our lives. But it can be much more destructive than just a bad mood. In recent years, women especially have become more impacted by stress, which shows up as heart ailments, weight gain, depression and other issues. Heartmath put together the infographic below detailing the impact and condequences of stress for women, and I've added some tips at the bottom about how to fight stress. 

Here's what you can do to fight it:

1. Pets are a great way to manage stress. Animals help by allowing us to focus on the positive things in our lives. Playing with pets and just having them in the house can reduce fears and anxieties in most situations. Moreover, the simple act of touching or petting an animal can actually change the way you respond to a stressful situation. It’s important to note that this may not be a solution for everyone – as pets do come with additional work and responsibility. For most people, the benefits can outweigh the drawbacks.

2. Adjust your eating habits. Long-term stress can increase your appetite and cause you to binge on unhealthy foods. This kind of emotional eating is often the body’s way of coping with the stressors. Mother Nature makes excellent stress fighters. Foods naturally rich in vitamins and minerals can help fight increased levels of cortisol – a stress hormone. Next time you get the urge to binge on greasy fast food or ice cream, try a handful of vitamin C-packed berries instead.

3. Train and guide yourself to better manage stress. For those who are serious about reducing stress, there are high-tech tools to help. For example, the Inner Balance trainer provides a highly specialized 3-step technique, and real-time feedback helps you synchronize your breath and heart rhythms as you retrain your mind body response to stress. This techno stress reducer has become widely popular with healthcare professionals who want an effective solution they can suggest to patients.

4. Be social. While there are times it feels like relationships with friends and family may be the cause of stress, a strong supportive network of family and friends can also significantly reduce stress and act as buffer. Enjoying the company of others can relieve feelings of tension and improve overall psychological well-being. Being with others who we care for and love can increase our positive emotional experiences. Some positive emotions have been shown to increase DHEA, known as the anti-aging hormone, and trigger oxytocin, known as the love hormone. These good-for-you hormones can help combat stress and may even boost the immune system.

Related on MNN: 10 ways owning a pet benefits your health

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