five simple ways to lessen stress

Having quality health insurance is important, but it can't fix everything. Sometimes the sheer stress of our everyday lives can actually make us sick.

According to the American Psychological Association, 41 percent of employees polled in 2012 reported a significant amount of stress in their workday. And while some stress is inevitable, the experts agree that too much stress can be dangerous. When not properly managed, stress can take a major toll on your mind, body, and spirit. In fact, long-term stress can cause obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure — just to name a few.

But we're not here to stress you out! At Esurance we believe in staying as healthy and happy as possible. Toward that end, we've compiled a list of helpful ways to de-stress.

Just breathe

It sounds so simple, but deep, concentrated breathing increases oxygen to the blood and can actually improve your mental and physical state. If the workaday world's becoming just a bit too much to bear, try to find a quiet place — go outside, or find an empty conference room — and just breathe. Yoga teaches that proper breathing techniques can effectively relieve stress, depression, and hypertension.

Here are the basic steps for the sukha pranayama, or "victorious breath": Sit comfortably and erect. Breathe naturally and feel the breath moving in and out of your lungs. Clear your mind and focus only on your breathing. Feel power and energy with every inhale, and imagine eliminating stress and anxiety with every exhale. You'll be amazed by how much better you feel within minutes.

Just "B"

If you're at the office, with the kids, stuck in traffic, or otherwise just don't have time for all that breathing, try to squeeze some vitamin B into your daily diet. B vitamins — B2, B6, and B12 — along with magnesium, help to produce serotonin, which is known to help regulate mood and relieve stress. Have a handful of almonds, which are loaded with B vitamins, zinc, and healthy antioxidants. Other stress-relieving foods filled with vitamin B are fish, broccoli, whole grain rice, sushi, beef, and milk.

Walk, don't run

Exercise in general is a great way to literally burn off stress, but walking is a particularly powerful tool against tension and anxiety — and the reasons are surprisingly simple. For one, anyone can walk. You don't have to be a trained athlete to walk around the block or through the park. You also don't need to walk for very long to enjoy the benefits it can bring. A 15- or 20-minute walk on your lunch break can reduce stress and improve your mood for the rest of the day. Walking triggers the release of endorphins, which help to relieve pain and stimulate relaxation in a very big way.

No drinking

Alcohol may at first seem like a good antidote to stress, but don't be fooled. Alcohol is actually a depressant and a few "relaxing" drinks could leave you feeling worse rather than better. In addition, alcohol is known to decrease your quality of sleep, especially during the second half of the night, when you should be getting deep, healthful REM sleep. As a result, instead of waking up rested and relaxed, you will likely wake feeling tired, groggy, and, well, stressed. If you feel you simply can't unwind without a glass of vino, limit it to one. Go for a walk or cook a healthy B vitamin-laden dinner instead!

When the going gets tough

No, you don't have to go shopping, but you might want to think about doing something you enjoy. Play golf, go to the beach, spend time with the kids, read, watch old movies, cook a gourmet meal — basically do anything that makes you feel happy and relaxed. All too often we get so bogged down with work, dates, deadlines, and obligations that we forget life is meant to be savored and enjoyed. Taking time to do things you find relaxing can provide a positive burst of energy and rejuvenation. So get going! Whether you have a quick hour or an entire weekend, do something that makes you truly happy. (And hey, shop if you want to!)

Here's one more thing that shouldn't stress you out: health insurance. Get a fast, free health insurance quote from Esurance and make sure your individual, family, or short-term health care coverage measures up!