(WBIR - MARYVILLE) Forty-four percent of Americans say they feel more stressed today than they did five years ago. In turn, it's becoming one of the main causes of illness.

A Maryville woman has found a way to reduce it from her life and is now paying it forward to others.

"I was working 16 hours a day. My stress level was way up here and it was actually coming out at my sons," Donna Marie Vigilante said.

Vigilante was just like millions of other Americans; busy.

"I had three things going on at one time that were highly important in my life," she said.

And busy can bring stress. A six letter word that is becoming more common than ever.

"We have more stress today than a generation ago had in their entire lifetime," said Dr. Pete Sulack, who is an expert on stress.

The effects it can have on our bodies is alarming.

"Cancer rates are skyrocketing. Heart disease rates are skyrocketing," Sulack said.

So the best way to avoid becoming a part of the statistics, is by taking action. Which is exactly what Vigilante did.

"I started practicing yoga just because somebody mentioned it, one of my friends," she said. "I came out of that first class going 'oh my goodness, that helped!'"

Now she is helping other women feel the same way.

"When most people walk in here, they are the last people on their take care of lists," she said.

But it's different when they walk out.

"They realize if they take care of themselves, they have so much more to give," Vigilante explained.

Experts said exercise pumps up your endorphins, resulting in positive energy.

"Exercise is one of the greatest things for stress," Sulack said.

It also helps you remain calm and clear in what you do.

"Specifically spinal mobility is the greatest nutrient to the brain because it stops the stress response," Sulack said.

But it's important to find what exercise works for you. Vigilante said that can be stressful too.

"Running is good for some people. It's not good for everybody. Walking is good for some people. It's not good for everybody. Swimming. You have to find the exercise that I say makes your soul dance," Vigilante explained.

Because when you find it and get in a routine, your stress levels are proven to decrease.