Stress Management and Heart Health

Cucumber Smiley Face

Cool as a Cucumber

When it comes to handling stress, are you cool as a cucumber or hot as a hot pepper?  Stress is present every day but how we choose to handle that stress can impact our physical and emotional well being. So how does stress contribute to heart disease? Stress can increase blood pressure. If you already have hypertension, the increase in blood pressure is more dangerous. Stress can also lead to some unhealthy habits. Habits such as overeating, smoking or drinking too much alcohol can all increase our chances for heart disease. When we are under excessive stress, it is hard for us to take care of ourselves properly. We may not feel like eating healthy, exercising and avoiding those things that are bad for us.  If you find yourself always in a hurry to get stuff done, eating to make yourself feel better, working too much or procrastinating to do things, sleeping too little or too much, feeling drained of energy, smoking or drinking alcohol to calm down; you may need some help to handle stress. Here are a few ideas that may help:

  1. Talk it out. Sometimes it helps to discuss what you are experiencing with a close friend or family member. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing it with someone else, then talk to yourself. Talking out loud may help you work through a decision or emotion with which you are dealing. Prayer is another great way to seek help. Just remember to stay focused on the positives.
  2. Work it out. When you find yourself in the middle of a stressful situation, find ways to deal with it in the moment. This may include taking several deep breaths, slowly counting to 10, walking away, giving someone a hug or a smile, or slowing down and tackling one thing at a time. Finding a distraction that is appropriate for the situation can help you refocus.
  3. Reward yourself. This can be a huge motivator to help you get through tough times. Stress can make you feel bad so counteract that with something that brings you pleasure. Be careful with this one. Rewarding yourself with things like food or alcohol is not going to help you in the long run. Try a fun hobby, read a book, spend time with friends, play a sport, take a walk, listen to music or get a massage. This can put you in a better frame of mind to handle stress.
  4. Practice Relaxation! We forget how to relax when we stay uptight too long. Find ways to help yourself unwind in a healthy way. True relaxation takes practice. Try yoga, tai chi, meditation, prayer or visual imagery. Find a comfortable position. Take slow deep breaths to slow your heartrate. Focus on an object, word or verse. Imagine yourself in a beautiful location while closing your eyes. Play soft relaxing music in the background. After doing this a few times, you will find it easier to relax.
Puppy sleeping

Do you feel relaxed yet?

For more information and tips, check out this page at the American Heart Association.

What works to help you relax? Feel free to share your tips with others in the comments below. If you found this series on heart health useful, please let us know and share with others.

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