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6 Ways to Reduce Stress for a Healthier Heart

By DuPage Medical Group Cardiology

It is undeniable; stress is a part of everyday life. Trying to balance work and family and still find time to do things you enjoy can be challenging. This culminates into the perfect storm when excessive daily stress collides with society 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 amount 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!


Topics and Subtopics: Heart Health & Mental Health

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