April is Stress Awareness Month, so what does stress really do to your body and how can you manage it?

It may sound cliché, but know that it’s true when I say: Life is stressful! Work piles up, your kids demand more than you can handle, or you feel like you’re surrounded by chaos. Maybe you and your spouse are fighting more than usual and you can’t pinpoint why? Or you’re finding yourself in a permanent cloud of moodiness? When life seems to ask for more than we can handle, our bodies start to feel emotionally and physically tense.

April is Stress Awareness Month, and in honor of that, we’re identifying the negative effects of stress on your health, and a few ways to help you tackle it! There are two main types of stress: Acute and chronic.

As defined by Medline Plus, acute stress is a short-term reaction that can help you manage dangerous situations and also occurs when you are doing something new or exciting. Slamming on your breaks or skiing down a steep slope are situations where you might feel acute stress.

Chronic stress lasts for a longer period of time, and is defined as any type of stress that goes on for weeks or months. Situations that can result in chronic stress are if you have money problems, an unhappy marriage, or constant trouble at work. Chronic stress could potentially lead to greater health issues. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can negatively affect your body, mood, and behavior in many ways.

When you suffer from chronic stress, your body experiences stress symptoms, even when you aren’t facing a stressful situation. According to Medline Plus, this puts you at risk for health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, skin problems, and menstrual problems.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff. There are so many things you can do to tackle stress.

Exercise
Regular physical activity pumps up your endorphins (your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters). A quick run or fast-paced game of racquetball can help you forget your daily stressors while you concentrate on your body’s movements. Exercise can also help increase your self-confidence, relax you, and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. It can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress. Even just walking can help. Try this walking series with iFit Trainer Kristy Godso next time you’re stressed!

Yoga
Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical poses, controlled breathing, meditation, and relaxation. One of my personal favorite ways to destress, yoga leads to improved balance, flexibility, strength, and can also help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Ultimately, yoga can enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being. This yoga series with iFit Trainer Briohney Smith will help you smoothly move from one position to the next as you enjoy stunning ocean views in Thailand!

Socializing
Social support can increase our body’s levels of oxytocin, which helps decrease anxiety levels and stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (it calms us down). Socializing with friends or family can help distract you from your stressors. If you confide in a loved one about your stressors, you’ll ultimately feel more confident in your ability to cope. Try reaching out to people in the iFit Community for support, too!

Me time
It is important to set aside time for your own hobbies and 
self-care. Even the simplest things such as listening to music, reading a book, or taking a bath can help you relax and destress. Don’t forget to put yourself and your needs first from time to time. Get a massage, go on a hike, or try something completely new! These distractions will help boost your mood and clear your mind.

While there are many changes you can make that can help you cope with stress, don’t ever hesitate to call a health care professional if your symptoms persist or if you continue to feel overwhelmed. As you move forward, no matter what life throws at you, remember to listen to, love, and take care of your body and mind!

Looking for more resources? Take a look at our choice of 5 Apps to Help You Unwind.