By
NBC News
updated 10/31/2003 6:28:37 PM ET 2003-10-31T23:28:37

Are you calm or crazed in the face of life’s pressures? Take Dateline’s National Stress Test and see how you do. Then learn what the experts say helps combat the harmful effects of stress.

You don't have to get hit by an earthquake or lose your job to suffer real stress. Life’s everyday bumps and bruises can be tough enough. And no matter how severe your stress, there are healthy ways to combat it. Our experts have come up with 10 of the best coping tips:

  1. Listen to music, read, write in a journal. - “In writing, try to get in touch with your feelings and try to make sense of what’s happenning to you,” says North Carolina State psychology professor Kitty Klein, who teaches about stress and coping, and is the architect of Dateline’s National Stress Test. “And it’s more effective than a lot of talk therapies.”
  2. Do yoga and meditation.
  3. Exercise.
  4. Spend time with family and friends.
  5. Play with pets. “It’s a really nice feeling to have a very affectionate social relationship, even if it’s not with another person,” says Dr. Liz Brondolo, a psychology professor and blood pressure expert at New York’s St. John’s University.
  6. Think positively and have some laughs.
  7. Take time off.
  8. Enjoy nature. “Pay attention to things that are beautiful,” says Brondolo. “The way a child’s face looks, the sunlight on the water looks.”
  9. Eat and drink, but in moderation.
  10. And, last but not least — sex.

“Just feeling loved is a huge stress reducer,” says Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington, who has written numerous books on sexuality. “It’s not a mystery when someone’s in love, that it’s good for them.”

But no matter what you do, there is no such thing as a life without stress. So it’s how we avoid, plan for, and cope with our inevitable pressures and problems that will make our hectic and beleaguered 21st Century lives a little more manageable.

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