Six Strategies for Reducing Stress to Preserve Your Heart Health
Everyone feels and reacts to stress in different ways. What is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another. Happy events such as marriage, a new baby, a job promotion, or a new home can be just as stressful as unhappy events such as illness, family issues, or feeling overworked.
Keep in mind that a little emotional stress can be healthy. It’s what motivates you to meet deadlines and check things off your to-do list. But research shows that chronic stress can be just as unhealthy for your heart as eating a high-fat diet and having a sedentary lifestyle.
Here are six strategies for reducing your stress to preserve your heart health:
- Breath: When you are stressed out, watch your breath. Focusing on your breathing directs your attention away from what’s making you feel overwhelmed. According to the American Heart Association, breathing exercises can also lower the risk of heart disease. Deep breathing can get you back to a less inflammatory state.
- Take Phone Breaks: When you are waiting in line at the grocery store, don’t scroll through your phone. Instead, stand there and give your brain a break. Our brains need natural rest periods throughout the day to recoup and face the next challenge or situation.
- Create a Schedule: To help reduce the low-level stressors that most often affect you, reflect on what triggers you the most and make a plan. For example, if cooking dinner during the week causes you stress, try planning a weekly menu on Sunday night. The 10 minutes that it takes you to plan your menu for the week might just be the key to calmer weekday evenings.
- Prioritize Your To-Do List: If you are someone who feels pressured to accomplish every task on your to-do list as soon as possible, create two separate lists – one for items that need to be done right away and one for items that can wait.
- Exercise Your Options: You’ve probably heard quite often that exercise is a great way to reduce stress. Physical activity releases endorphins, feel-good brain chemicals that help you feel calm and sleep better, which in turn helps to lower or eliminate stress. Make sure to pick activities that you enjoy so that you are more likely to stick with them. In a moment of intense stress, try moving fast for one minute – jog in place, move from one foot to the other, or shake your hands in the air. This will get you out of your brain and focused on your physical body.
- Focus on Having More Fun: The more you take care of yourself and the more you experience pleasure, the better you will be able to handle stressful situations when they come your way. Consider the stressful parts of your day and try to find ways to make them more enjoyable. For example, if you have a long commute to work, try listening to the audio version of a book that you’ve always wanted to read or update your playlist to include your favorite songs.
There are many different tools for reducing stress; you have to find what works best for you. Remember, you have the power within you to find your inner calm.