6 Ways to Reduce Stress for a Healthier Heart

Tips for cop­ing with stress that adverse­ly affects your heart

It is unde­ni­able; stress is a part of every­day life. Try­ing to bal­ance work and fam­i­ly and still find­ing time to do things you enjoy can be chal­leng­ing. This cul­mi­nates into the per­fect storm when exces­sive dai­ly stress col­lides with soci­etal pres­sures to always be bet­ter, wealth­i­er and more suc­cess­ful. Behav­iors used to cope with stress like overeat­ing, drink­ing alco­hol, smok­ing, work­ing too much, pro­cras­ti­nat­ing, and sleep­ing too much or not enough can be detri­men­tal to your heart health and car­dio­vas­cu­lar system.

Did you know that stress sets off a chain reac­tion where your body releas­es adren­a­line, a hor­mone that increas­es your res­pi­ra­tions and heart rate? This is part of the fight or flight response” that is built into your body to help cope in dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions. In small incre­ments, this state is help­ful; how­ev­er, when you are under exces­sive stress on a reg­u­lar basis, these respons­es become harmful.

The effects of stress become appar­ent in many ways. You may start to expe­ri­ence headaches, back­ach­es, stom­achaches and tight mus­cles. In addi­tion, ener­gy lev­els decline and sleep pat­terns are affect­ed. Many times, you may expe­ri­ence feel­ings such as anx­i­ety, anger, depres­sion, irri­tabil­i­ty, impa­tience and for­get­ful­ness. These, too, can have an impact on your heart health. It is always impor­tant to talk to a doc­tor to be sure that these symp­toms aren’t relat­ed to med­ical con­di­tions or med­ica­tions. If all oth­er symp­tom caus­es are ruled out, you should focus your efforts on learn­ing how to bet­ter man­age dai­ly stress for your heart health and over­all well-being.

Learn­ing to cope with stress in your life will reduce the num­ber of neg­a­tive behav­iors that adverse­ly affect the car­dio­vas­cu­lar system.

6 ways to help man­age dai­ly stress more effectively: 

1. Talk, Talk, Talk! 

Turn to fam­i­ly and friends, or even a trained ther­a­pist, to dis­cuss things in your life that are caus­ing stress. Some­times a fresh per­spec­tive can enlight­en you on the sit­u­a­tion and pro­vide solu­tions you may not have seen otherwise.

2. Exer­cise Regularly

Whether it is high-inten­si­ty inter­val train­ing, a walk in the park, or a long evening bike ride, exer­cise releas­es feel-good hor­mones” that can help you relax and relieve both phys­i­cal and men­tal tension.

3. Engage in Meditation

Deep breath­ing, yoga, and tai chi are just a few types of med­i­ta­tive prac­tices that are stress-reduc­ing. These activ­i­ties can help to clear your mind and help focus on solu­tions to prob­lems in your life. These activ­i­ties will also help lead to bet­ter sleep which is impor­tant in keep­ing stress at bay.

4. Healthy Diet

A good bal­ance of vit­a­mins, min­er­als, and elec­trolytes will pro­vide ener­gy and allow you to main­tain a healthy weight. With poor nutri­tion, ill­ness and dis­ease can occur which will only add more stress to your life. Also, lim­it caf­feine; when con­sumed in excess, caf­feine can have adverse effects on stress and your heart.

5. Stay Organized

Much of your dai­ly stress can be caused by for­got­ten appoint­ments or items, over-packed cal­en­dars, unhealthy on-the-go eat­ing, etc. Plan ahead! Lay out back­packs, brief­cas­es, and clothes the night before. Have an assigned place in the house for impor­tant paper­work and mail. Use the week­end to pre­pare healthy meals for the week so there is no excuse to stop for fast food. Being pre­pared will reduce stress asso­ci­at­ed with dai­ly activities.

6. Prac­tice Pos­i­tive Self-talk

Instead of resort­ing to an I can’t do this” men­tal­i­ty, think I am going to do the best I can” and then accept that what you are able to do is good enough! Embrace the things you can change, laugh and slow down.

Real­ize the pos­i­tives in your life and around you. Try to get more in touch with the sim­ple plea­sures in life. Remem­ber to take time for your­self; res­ur­rect your favorite hob­by, read a book, hang out with friends, lis­ten to music or just enjoy your sur­round­ings and take a walk in nature. All these things will help you cope with the inevitable stress life brings.

Man­ag­ing stress more effec­tive­ly will have pos­i­tive effects on your heart and over­all health, allow­ing for a long and plea­sur­able life!

Talk with your pri­ma­ry care provider about ways you can reduce stress and con­tin­ue to care for your heart. 

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