April is Stress Awareness Month — the time when health care professionals across the U.S. raise awareness about stress and the health implications that come along with it. People who battle with excessive stress are more prone to heart disease, asthma, obesity, Alzheimer’s and gastrointestinal issues, to name just a few.

If you find yourself experiencing even mild symptoms of stress overload, try using some of these tips for managing stress and promoting better health:

Exercise

Many health experts agree that regular exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress levels and stay stress-free. When you exercise, your body produces neurohormones that boost your mood and improve cognitive function. To celebrate stress awareness month, try getting in a 30-minute cardiovascular workout each day. You’ll likely find yourself continuing this trend well into May and beyond.

Practice Deep Breathing

Meditative breathing is often taught to anxiety sufferers because of its calming effects. If you’re feeling stressed, practice deep breathing by following these steps:

   1. Close your eyes
   2. Focus on your breathing
   3. Inhale and exhale slowly from deep in your diaphragm

Reach Out

When you start feeling overwhelmed, it may be helpful to talk about it. If you’re having problems at work or home, or you just need to vent about your day, find a close friend who you can open up to. Sometimes talking out loud about your problems will help you to “let go” of the burden.

Make Time for Sleep

Oftentimes lack of sleep can exacerbate existing stress issues. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Try going to bed 1 hour earlier at night and/or making time for a mid-day nap, if possible. You’ll find you’re better at managing stress if you are well rested and ready to take on the day.

Listen to Music

Studies have shown that music reduces stress levels in adults and children. Use stress awareness month as an excuse to listen to music throughout your day, whether it’s on your way to work in the morning or in the kitchen in the evening while you’re eating dinner.