By Robert L. Herron, MA, CSCS*D, ACSM-CEP |
April is Stress Awareness Month. Stress is part of life and everyone experiences some level of stress. Within the context of health and wellness, stress is a normal reaction to everyday pressures. Not all stress is “bad”, but when stress impacts your overall health and wellness, it needs to be managed.
According to the results of the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey, the recent COVID-19 pandemic, prominent political cycle, and acknowledgement of continued civil rights issues created even more stress. However, as the world slowly moves to the new normal, people will have a renewed opportunity to make their own mental health a priority.
Stressors can be acute or chronic and impact people differently. If stress is not managed it can affect one’s health. Often, symptoms of mismanaged stress can manifest as anxiety, depression, and impaired sleep. All of which can create vicious cycle. It is important that people self-reflect and examine how one responds to minor and major stressors. When needed, it is important to seek help from qualified professionals. Chronic, or long-term stress, is especially challenging to one’s health and wellness and can have deleterious effects on the immune system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, mental health, and reproductive system – among others.
Luckily, physical activity and exercise can help! The key here is finding all the modes of physical activity that you enjoy doing and making it a priority do those regularly. Now, finding activities you enjoy may take time and experimentation, but creating long-lasting behavior change is important for long-term health.
If you are a beginner, start with walking or take advantage of other resources you may have available to you. Look for opportunities to join others or bring your pet along. Exercise is not the only way to help with stress either. Look to enhance other dimensions of your wellness. It may be a good time to prioritize and enhance your social, spiritual, intellectual, financial, or occupational wellness.
There are many ways to manage stress, but they all start with doing things that help YOU and sticking with it. If possible, be proactive and recognize your triggers and responses. If you have access to a health care provider, speak to them. And make sure to get moving along the way.
Robert L. Herron is Acting Director of Sport Exercise Science at the United States Sports Academy. Robert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). firstname.lastname@example.org