Stress is an accepted part of 21st century life in developed cultures, yet it is a known factor of poor health. Symptoms of stress include headaches, digestive problems and difficulty sleeping which in turn creates a downward spiral of more stress. We may not be able to control some of the external factors that cause stress in our lives, but how we manage our lives is totally in our own hands.

If you need to de-stress, here are seven ways to filter out stress naturally and improve your quality of life, no matter what it throws your way.

Make some Me-Time
Each of us has 24 hours in every day to allocate to work, family, eating, drinking and relaxing. Make 20 minutes me-time a priority for an oasis of quiet relaxation in each hectic day. Make it a time to be alone, relax and do nothing. Sit quietly and reflect on the good things in your life or make positive plans for the future before returning to the rat-race fully regenerated.

Ever day should include some fresh air and exercise, whether you take a short stroll at lunchtime or park a little further from work and walk the last half-mile. Physical exercise is known to be a good cure for depression and it allows you to work out your frustration at the end of a trying day. Fitness classes are also a good way to relax and socialize away from the office.

Choose a Healthy Diet
Snacks and highly processed foods produce a sluggish body and mind while healthy well-balanced meals give lasting energy when packed with nutrients, B-vitamins and antioxidants. Stock up with fresh fruit and vegetables so that it is easy to prepare a healthy packed lunch and snacks rather than reaching for chips and cookies at the end of a long day.

Control Your Thoughts
Self-criticism and negativity only add to our own stress. Life may be unfair, but how we deal with it is entirely in our own hands. Be patient with yourself and look at some of the good things you have achieved or experienced for a positive attitude and less stress.

Relax before Bed
Do you toss and turn in bed, thinking of what you could be doing with your time? End the day quietly with a book, listen to music and sip a milky drink rather than working until late or watching an exciting film. A good night's sleep is when the body restores itself and prepares for the forthcoming day and is essential to lower stress levels.

Meditation, either alone or as part of a class, can be a good way to learn to relax and still your mind. Yoga and other mediation techniques are a great way to de-stress.

Learn to Delegate
At home or at work, delegate whenever possible to avoid being overwhelmed by an impossible workload. That way you can concentrate on making a good job of what you must do with more time to concentrate and less stress.