With so many of us torn between juggling heavy workloads, managing relationships and family responsibilities, and squeezing in outside interests, it's no surprise that more than one in four Americans describe themselves as “super stressed.” That’s not balanced or healthy.

Over time, stress weakens the immune system and makes you susceptible to a variety of ailments, from colds to backaches to heart disease. The newest research shows that chronic stress can actually double your risk of having a heart attack.

Here are a few practical steps to loosen the grip that stress has on you and win back the balance in your life. Read on and reap the benefits.

At Work

Make a “to do” list and set manageable, realistic goals each day. The latest research shows that the more control we have over our work, the less stressed we get. Start by dividing a big job into smaller tasks. Give yourself small rewards upon each completion and then move on to the next task.

Ask for flexibility. If you ask, they might allow you to work flexible hours or from home one day a week. Research shows that employees who work flexible schedules are more productive and loyal to their employers.

Take five. Taking a five-minute break at work isn’t only acceptable, it’s often encouraged by many employers. Small breaks will help clear your head, improve your ability to deal with stress, and helps you make good decisions when you jump back into the grind.

Tune in. Studies dating back more than 30 years show the benefits of music in everyday life, including lowered blood pressure. Be sure to wear headphones on the job and then pump up the volume and your productivity.

Communicate effectively. Be honest with colleagues or your boss when you feel you’re in a bind. But don’t just complain — suggest practical alternatives. Make allowances for other opinions and compromise.

Give yourself a break. No one’s perfect! Allow yourself to be human and just do the best you can.

At Home

Unplug. Turn off your phone, TV, and computer and pick up a book, even for just one hour. Do this regularly.

Divide and conquer. Make sure responsibilities at home are evenly distributed and clearly outlined — you’ll avoid confusion and problems later.

Don't over commit. Learn to say no. Shed the superman/superwoman urge!

Get support. People with stronger support systems have more aggressive immune responses to illnesses than those who lack such support.

Stay active. Make time in your schedule for the gym or to take a walk during lunch — and have some fun!

Treat your body right. Don’t rely on drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes to cope with stress; they’ll only lead to more problems.

Get help if you need it. If you are persistently overwhelmed, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.

Source: Mental Health America: Work Life Balance