Stress management… it’s good for your heart!

We all experience stress either at work, home or both. Learning how to manage it is important for our overall health, but particularly heart health. Here are some ways you can manage stress.

Why do we feel stress?

Stress is an emotional response that helps us realize there is something wrong. When we feel stress there could be a variety of reasons, some cause minor stress and others cause extreme, long-lasting stress. The problem for our body and heart is stress that is long-lasting because it constantly signals danger and it could grow to a point of seriously effecting your heath. As you can see from the graphic below, stress can and does cause serious health issues.

Practicing stress management

Given the serious negative effects of stress on our heart, mental health and overall health, it is important we learn techniques to manage it so that we aren’t constantly overloaded with feelings of worry or frustration. One of the first steps in stress management is recognizing we’re experiencing stress and what level of stress are we feeling.

  • Level 1 stress is low and you feel creative and engaged
  • Level 2, you feel relaxed and assume you will continue to be relaxed
  • When you get to 3-5 you can handle the stress and continue to think positively
  • At level 6-7 you feel moderate stress, become irritable, anxious or overwhelmed and stress becomes problematic
  • At level 8 the problems seem continuous and you begin to lose faith they are fixable; resulting in feeling irritation and highly upset
  • Reaching level 9, it become necessary to ask for help
  • At level 10 you are experiencing extreme negative emotions and definitely need to ask for help

Where to you fall on this chart? It might take some time to begin paying attention to the amount of stress you’re feeling and then determine what level of stress it is. By knowing the level of stress you’re experiencing you can begin using techniques to manage it.

Tips to manage stress

  1. Count to 10 before you speak or react
  2. Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body relax
  3. Go for a walk, even if it’s just a few minutes. Seek somewhere you can be alone and give yourself time to get away from the tension
  4. If you can, meditate, give yourself time to think and get perspective
  5. When possible don’t react; instead, take time to sleep on it
  6. Walk away form the situation; you can always return it to once things have calmed down
  7. Break the problem into smaller pieces and take one step at a time rather than trying to complete everything all at once
  8. Listen to music or an inspirational podcast to help you stay calm
  9. When possible spend time with a pet, hug a loved one or help someone out, as you recall from my Random act of kindness post, there are significant benefits when showing kindness to others
  10. Get in a workout… exercise is one of the best stress relievers there is.

If your stress is extreme and long-lasting you might consider stress management classes, seeing your doctor, or contact a therapist. There are many options available and the health benefits both physically and mentally (think quality of life) are more than worth the investment in learning to manage your stress.

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