It turns out that age-old advice not to sweat the small stuff is more than just a trite saying. It could save your life. Experts have warned us for a long time that high levels of stress in life can lead to health problems and early death due to preventable forms of heart disease and cancer, but a new study shows that this doesn’t have to be extreme stress, it’s everyday stress that can send you to an early grave.

You would think that a life full of major stresses like a dangerous job or serious and constant relationship issues is the kind of life that would lead to stress-related illnesses like heart disease, but researchers are now telling us that constant, small, everyday stresses are the culprit, based on how you deal with them.

The study was conducted by the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University. It followed nearly 1,300 men for many years. The unsurprising result was that the most stressed-out participants had the highest risk of premature death. The surprising result was that it wasn’t the types of stressors that determined the risk of death, it was participants’ reactions to perceived stressed that caused problems.

According to Carolyn Aldwin, director of the center who led the study, “people who always perceived their daily life to be over-the-top stressful were three times more likely to die over the period of the study than people who rolled with the punches and didn’t find daily life very stressful.”

Basically, letting things constantly get to you can be very harmful to your health because stress can be toxic to your system. People who tend to “stress out” over things have increased levels of cortisol. High levels of cortisol interfere with learning and memory as well as lower immune function and bone density while increasing blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.

If you get easily stressed out, research has shown that 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise can lower stress levels and improve mood. Meditation can also help calm your mind and give you the tools to calm down when you perceive a situation as stressful. Breathing exercises are also very helpful for keeping your physical reaction to stress at bay.

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