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Breathe away stress

For many women, stress is a constant companion. But long-term tension is exhausting: It can cause physical symptoms such as anxiety, back pain, constipation, diarrhea, depression, fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, sleep problems and weight gain or loss.

The best way to rid your life of stress is to avoid whatever causes it. But that’s not always possible. The next best option? Changing the way you react to your stressors. And meditation is a great way to start.

Open up and say ‘om’

Meditation comes in many different forms, from yoga and tai chi to mantra meditation (the silent repeating of a calming word or thought) and guided meditation (using mental images that you find relaxing). Most involve a quiet location with few distractions, a specific posture, a complete focus of attention and an open attitude. And all can give you a sense of peace and balance to help your well-being and overall health.

If you have health conditions that are worsened by stress, such as allergies, cancer, depression, fatigue, high blood pressure, pain and substance abuse, research suggests that meditation may help.

The best part of meditation is that it doesn’t have to be done in a formal setting such as class. You can do it wherever and whenever you choose. It can be as simple as focusing your attention on breathing deeply, engaging in prayer or reading your favorite text and reflecting on the meaning of the words. You can also incorporate it into everyday routines, such as walking. Simply walk slowly, concentrating on each stride and repeating an action phrase in your head as you perform the movement—for example, “lifting up my foot,” “putting my foot down” and “walking forward.” Before you know it, you’ll be headed down a less stressful path!