Every parent knows about stress to the point where it has become a regular and predictable part of our lives. April is Stress Awareness Month and a good time to make a concerted effort to reduce the stress in our lives. After all, stress lowers our quality of life, and can have serious physical, emotional, and psychological consequences.

The human body has evolved to handle some level of stress, and if anything, the survival of our species depended on it. Our ancestors experienced stress in reaction to danger: the release of stress hormones caused the heart to speed up and blood pressure to increase, preparing our bodies to "fight or run." This survival mechanism was meant to be short-lived, such that continuous exposure, like when we are "stressed-out" in our daily lives, can have profound health consequences, including digestive problems, hypertension, depression, anxiety, and heart disease.

It has been estimated that 43% of adults suffer from adverse health effects stemming from stress, and somewhere between 75% to 90% of doctor's office visits are linked to stress related ailments. This translates into over $300 billion dollars a year in lost productivity.

With this in mind, it's a good idea for all of us to make the reduction of stress a health priority, not just for ourselves, but for our family and friends, as well.

1. Don't over-schedule.

Easier said than done, especially in an age where more is better, but make reasonable plans and keep an eye out for how your kids are feeling.

2. Plan properly.

The road to serenity is paved with good planning. Taking a few minutes to be organized will make your day run smoothly and lower your stress and your child's.

3. Remember it's not the end of the world.

Unless it's a life or death situation, nothing is worth compromising your health over, especially getting to a soccer practice on time. Keep things in perspective.

4. Forget about what others think.

Worrying what others think about you takes time and energy, and creates stress. Focus on what's important, like the well-being of your family.

5. Eat right.

This means the right food and the right approach (i.e., sit down to meals together). Make sure you get enough fresh fruits and vegetables.

6. Exercise.

Being active is not only good for your body, but it clears your head, helps relieve stress, and builds your self-esteem.

7. Schedule down time.

Set aside a time during the day to do nothing or engage in a slow activity like reading to your kids or taking a walk.

8. Take care of yourself.

A lot of parental stress involves catering to your family, so make sure you have time to do the things you want to do.

9. Seek out help.

Getting a babysitter or family member to help take care of the kids is a great way to avoid the stress of being pulled in too many directions.

10. Work as a team.

Two parents are better than one, so work as a team and share the duties.

11. Turn off your phone.

Answering a call is just one more thing you have to deal with in what is most likely an already busy day.

12. Get a dog.

Walking a dog is a great way to slow down and spend some quiet time with your best friend.

13. Reduce your caffeine intake.

As much as we love it, the stimulation from caffeine adds to our stress. Enjoy a cup or two but avoid excess consumption.

14. Create a social network.

Being around other people, especially those who share in your pain and suffering, can do wonders for your peace of mind.

15. Breathe deeply.

Taking a deep breath can do wonders for your nerves. It's a wonder we don't do it more often.

If you are concerned about stress in your life, talk to your doctor. For more information, visit the website for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).