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Reducing Stress to Improve Heart Health

By: Connie Uff, MA, CAADC, CCPG, LPC

You probably often hear how damaging an unhealthy lifestyle can be for your heart. You are cautioned to stop smoking, exercise, and eat a balanced diet.

Less often heard, but perhaps equally important, is the damage that stress can have on heart health. Stress can raise your heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, which leads to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and clogged arteries.

Here are six ways you can reduce your stress level to improve our heart health.

  1. Practice Mindfulness – Being present in the moment can reduce your body’s stress response. By paying attention to your breath and sensations in your body, you can lower your blood pressure and you naturally relax. Click here to explore various mindfulness strategies.
  2. Make Time for You – Make time for an activity you enjoy doing such as taking a walk or riding your bike, calling a friend, watching a funny movie, or keep a gratitude journal. 
  1. Try a Grounding Technique – Grounding techniques are useful for keeping us in the present event when our thoughts take us back to troubling times or into the future with the “what ifs.” One simple grounding technique you can try is holding your breath for 10-15 seconds while placing a soft ice pack over your face. 
  1. Establish Good Sleep Hygiene – Create a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Disconnect from electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  2.  Reframe Your Thoughts – Try turning negative thoughts into positive ones. For example, instead of saying “I don’t know why I try. I failed in the past,” say “Maybe something will be different this time.” Click here for 10 more tips for changing your mindset to reduce heart stress. 
  1. Identify a Mantra – Find a motivating phrase that you can recite to reduce your stress. For example, here is one from Brené Brown – “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.”

It can sometimes be difficult to reduce your stress level, even after implementing the techniques above. If you need more support, EAP is here to help. Call our office at 215-257-6556.