you can relax with pets (Photo: Akimasa Harada; Getty Images)

Stressed at the office? Join the club: Nearly 30% of us suffer from work-related anxiety, and it causes problems more severe than serious cravings for a glass of wine. A pressure-cooker week can show up on your skin, dampen your mood, and even strain personal relationships. Unfortunately, new research also reveals that day-to-day stress takes a long-term toll--by upping the risk of disability in your golden years.

In a study on nearly 3,000 people that spanned 28 years, Finnish researchers examined the effects of mid-life stress on old-age disability. At the study's onset, participants aged 44 to 58 were asked to report their daily stress levels. When the research period concluded, investigators found that those who'd reported stress symptoms in middle age were more likely to struggle with normal daily activities (like preparing meals, bathing, and even dressing).
As it turns out, work-related stress isn't the only culprit. The study found that various triggers of stress, including poor sleep, led to the same outcome years later. In other words, no matter what's stressing your body, you're still risking problems down the road.

The good news? You can curb stress and prevent it from taking a toll. We've rounded up a few unexpected ways to do it:

Look at something blue. "We have two types of responses to color, and one is biological," says Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association, a design consulting service. Research has shown that the color blue can slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and calm you down, she says. Change your desktop background to a blue hue for an instant unwind.

Cuddle with a critter. Sure, spending time with loved ones can boost your mood. But according to recent research, the calming effects of a furry friend might be even better. Study participants who performed a difficult math test in the company of a pet experienced less stress (and scored higher test results) than those who did the exam while hanging out with friends or family.

Grin and bear it. Even if you're about to go over the edge, force a smile. A new study published in Psychological Science found that manipulating your facial expression to a happier position can lower you heart rate during a stressful time. How to fake it? Stick a pencil between your teeth horizontally. Sounds weird, but it'll force your eyebrows up and widen your mouth, which cues your brain to relax.