There are endless things that can cause stress:
- A new job.
- Relationship troubles.
- The big deadline.
- Health worries.
- Meeting someone new.
- Going back to the office after a year of working from home.
This list goes on and on.
The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, including anxiety about catching the virus and restrictions that affected our daily lives, all brought about a widespread focus on stress and mental health unlike we had seen in this generation. It also made people wonder about healthy ways to prevent and manage stress.
Among the most effective stress prevention management techniques for acute stress is exercise. In this article, we take a look at the different types of stress you might experience, and then we summarize what the research says about the role of exercise in managing stress.
Different Types of Stress: Why Does It Matter?
There are several ways to categorize stress, but here we will discuss stress in terms of severity in time, namely, acute stress and chronic stress.
Acute stress is a sensation of stress or anxiety that lasts a few minutes or hours as you experience or anticipate experiencing something that is generally associated with big feelings or moments in your life. Feeling acute stress is a normal, and even healthy, part of our daily lives. It helps us to perceive and prepare for a change that is coming our way.
When a treat is perceived, a several-step chain reaction ensues. The information your senses gather about the threat is sent to the amygdala, which then sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus sends signals to hormone-producing glands to excrete the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause some common physical changes in the body during stressful times, such as breathing faster and sharper sense. These changes are due to the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol, two stress hormones.
In general, people can use simple stress management techniques, like breathing, affirmations, visualization, and seeking social support, to manage the stress until the event causing the stress passes or we become accustomed to change.
Some events that often result in an acute stress response include:
- Starting a new job or losing a job
- Going on stage
- Meeting someone new
- Finishing up a big report
- Standing up to someone
- Launching a new business
- Moving to a new home
Chronic stress, unlike acute stress, lasts several weeks, months, or even years. It is not resolved in the short term, so our body is in “emergency mode” for a long period of time. Chronic stress can lead to a wide range of negative effects on our health, including pain and headaches, high blood pressure, sleep problems, depression, and panic attacks. If chronic stress is not resolved or managed appropriately, or if it occurs during key moments in our development, it can increase the risk of developing several chronic diseases.
Needless to say, effective stress management techniques, such as exercise can have an important role in managing stress.
However, it is vital to take action when the stress is not becoming manageable; reach out to a mental health specialist if needed.
Does Exercise Help Us Manage Stress?
The short answer is yes. Below are some of the research-backed benefits of exercise for preventing and managing stress in a wide range of circumstances.
- 1. Exercise helps to protect against the dysregulation of the stress system.
- 2. Exercise helps to regulate the disturbances caused by stress, including central obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular dysfunction. In this way, it also helps to protect the body against disease.
- 3. Regular exercise helps the body and mind manage stress in a healthy manner when changes arise or big events are on the horizon.
- 4. Physical activity has the potential to improve mood while decreasing psychological distress.
- 5. Exercise that is safe for different physical conditions, such as swimming during pregnancy, is also beneficial for stress reduction.
No need to stress about finding an exercise routine that will help to reduce stress. Fortunately, there aren’t any special stress-reduction exercise regimens. The same recommendations made to help people improve their health, in general, can also be prescribed to help manage stress.
In other words, carrying out 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity of any kind that is recommended by the World Health Organization for general health will help you to prevent and manage stress more effectively.
Tip: If you aren’t sure where to start, Simply Fitness has a wide variety of fitness programs for people of all backgrounds and fitness levels.
Other Stress Management Tips
Exercise and physical activity are important parts of a healthy lifestyle for numerous reasons, including their role in stress management. However, most people cannot depend solely on exercise for helping to resolve their problems with stress.
Here are some other considerations for managing stress levels:
Get enough sleep
It helps to regulate your hormones and you will be more likely to feel alert and relaxed during the day.
Eat a balanced diet
A diet that meets your nutritional needs will help keep your hormone levels balanced and promote physical and mental health. Additionally, if you are satisfied with your eating habits, you are removing a possible source of stress.
Find a good support system
Humans are social beings, and we look to others for emotional support and socialization. Socialization is an important part of stress prevention and management.
Try out stress management techniques
Meditation, focused breathing, and visualization are all techniques that help to reduce acute stress that is affecting your ability to think clearly and be aware of your surroundings.
Don’t be afraid to seek support
If you feel that your stress and anxiety levels are getting out of hand or affecting your relationships, seek support from your healthcare team or a mental health specialist. Together, you can identify the source of stress, devise plans to help to reduce the cause of stress and implement stress-management techniques that are specific to you and your needs.
Exercise and physical activity have a vital role in helping to promote your health and wellness. Not only does it create a safe space to focus your energy, but it also helps to regulate the chemical processes in your body that are causing stress. Choosing an exercise you enjoy and making it a regular part of your daily or weekly routine can help to prevent stress before it begins. Adding in stress-reduction routines when you are feeling the anxiety bubble up can also help you channel those feelings safely so you feel better when the routine ends.
Are you ready to reap the many benefits of exercise? Choose from a wide variety of at-home fitness programs at SimplyFitness.com.