Each summer we look forward to the sunny weather, schools closing and vacations. However, managing your or your family’s play, travel and work schedules can be stressful.

According to United Health Foundation’s 2016 America’s Health Rankings, Arkansas ranks 49th among all 50 states when it comes to poor mental health days — days that people unfavorably assess their mental health, which can affect their well-being and quality of life. Stress can have a definite negative effect on people’s mental health.

Poor mental health days can affect every aspect of one’s day, from your drive to work to running errands before your child’s soccer practice. So what can be done about managing stress and preventing tough days ahead?

First, we must understand that stress is here to stay – a modest amount of stress, offset by periods of relative calm and security, is normal. But high levels of stress can be dangerous to your health, leading to headaches, back pain, fatigue, upset stomach, anxiety, depression and heart problems.

Recognizing stress

Stress is a physical and psychological response to a demand, threat or problem. It stimulates and increases your level of awareness, also known as the “fight or flight” response. The response occurs whether the stress is positive or negative. Positive stress provides the means to express talents and abilities. But continued exposure to negative stress may lower the body’s ability to cope, which may lead to prolonged health issues.

Your signs of stress may be different from someone else’s. Some people get angry. Others have trouble concentrating or making decisions, and still others will develop health problems. The good news is that stress can be managed.

Here are five tips to help you manage stress and take control of your health:

1.Take care of yourself – Eat healthier, engage in moderate exercise and get enough sleep – all of which can improve your health.

2.Figure out the source —Monitor your mental state throughout the day. Keep a list of the things that create stress. Then develop a plan for dealing with these common stressors.

3.Do things you enjoy — Go to a movie, meet a friend for dinner or participate in an activity that provides relief. Give yourself a break and take time to care about yourself.

4.Learn relaxation techniques — Deep breathing is helpful. Meditation as well as “mindfulness techniques” are becoming increasingly popular at home and in the workplace. You can practice mindfulness while sitting in a quiet place or walking. The key is to focus on your breathing or your steps. The technique may be simple, but achieving the desired result takes practice.

5.Welcome support — Let close friends or relatives know you’re dealing with stress. They may be able to offer help or support that may make a difference.

Remember, stress is your body’s natural defense mechanism, but being under stress for too long can have a serious negative effect on your health. If you notice stress is becoming an issue for you, talk with your doctor.

For more health and wellness tips, visit UHC.com.