Tips to Reduce Stress for a Healthy Heart
As you may know, there are a number of factors that contribute to your heart health every day. Diet and exercise are often the first discussed, but understanding the role stress plays on your cardiac health and how to keep the kind of perspective that will allow you to flourish, reduce stress and keep your heart as healthy as possible for as long as possible is important. So, let’s talk about perspective, what a “healthy” perspective looks like, and how that impacts your heart.
Heart Health and Stress
While studies are still inconclusive as to the exact impact stress has on your heart health (is it direct, or corollary?), the fact remains that high levels of stress, especially over prolonged periods of time, can spell trouble for your heart. Increased stress levels can increase blood pressure and cortisol levels in your body, both of which are contributing factors to what causes heart disease and the risk of heart attack. Look, we’re all going get stressed sometimes – that’s just the nature of life. But knowing how to reduce stress, understanding when it’s becoming a prevalent and persistent problem in your life, and remembering the impact high-stress levels can have will help you mitigate the effects and get back to a place where health – heart and otherwise – is your priority.
Consider your current stress levels? Do they rise and fall with situations, but are generally manageable? Have you been feeling more stressed lately, or are you trying to think back to the last time you didn’t feel stressed and coming up blank? Knowing where you’re at with your stress levels now is an important first step to helping minimize the impact of this factor on your life. Make a list of the stress factors in your life at the moment, and by each one rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is the least stress contributed and 10 is the most possible stress being contributed to your life at this point in time. This will help give you a map of what your biggest stress points are, and how many stressors you’re dealing with. Sometimes we don’t realize how much stress we are under until we’re forced to look at it and contemplate it in a holistic manner like this.
Take a Step Back
Once you have that list, it’s time for a little dose of perspective. Near the item on your list – after the number rating you’ve given it, make a note of whether or not that item is within your control. You can simply put “in my control” or “out of my control” or you can get more detailed about the different pieces of an item that may be within your control or outside of your purview. Here’s the thing about stress – it likes to multiply, and if left unchecked, it will often multiply and branch out to things you would normally never give a second thought. Once you’ve got these things written down, it’s time to do some work!
The things on your list that are within your control – here’s the great news – you can do something about them! Take the action that needs to be done to banish them from your stressor list once and for all. Sometimes getting these little weights off your shoulders is as easy as checking something off your list that you keep putting off, and sometimes it’s a little more involved, but if you’ve marked it down as within your control, chances are you know what needs to be done to take care of it. Now, for those things that are out of your control. It would be easy, but unrealistic for us to say just let it go. Instead, do something that chills you out, or takes your mind off of things. Spend time with a friend or loved one, go for a walk outside, play with your pet, do something kind for someone else. Take a bubble bath, or indulge in a glass of red wine or a couple squares of dark chocolate. Whatever is known (and healthy!) to alleviate your stress, go for it. And while you’re at it, make a list of the things you know help chill you out. That way when you’re in the midst of a stressful time, you can refer back to it as a resource.
Do your heart (and your brain!) a favor and remember that perspective is key when it comes to stress control and keeping your heart as healthy as possible!