Let’s face it, too much stress is bad for the heart. Stress is a contributing factor to many, if not all health problems, but since it is Heart Month, let’s focus on how it affects the heart and how we can learn to fight stress.
If you're often stressed, and you don't have good ways to manage it, you are more likely to have high blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels, damage to your arteries, chest pain, irregular heartbeats, or the development and progression of coronary artery disease. Studies have linked stress to changes in the way blood clots, which makes a heart attack more likely.
The way you handle stress also matters. If you respond to it in unhealthy ways -- such as smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, or not exercising -- that makes matters worse. On the other hand, if you exercise, connect with people, and find meaning despite the stress, that makes a difference in your emotions and in your body.
There is much truth in the old Chinese proverb - “When the heart is at ease, the body is healthy.”
Emergency stress stoppers are actions to help you defuse stress in the moment. You may need different stress stoppers for different situations, and sometimes it helps to combine them. Here are some ideas:
1. Count to 10 before you speak or react.
2. Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body un-clench a bit.
3. Go for a walk, even if it’s just to the restroom and back. It can help break the tension and give you a chance to think things through.
4. Try a quick meditation or prayer to get some perspective.
5. If it’s not urgent, sleep on it and respond tomorrow. This works especially well for stressful emails and social media trolls.
6. Walk away from the situation for a while and handle it later once things have calmed down.
7. Break down big problems into smaller parts. Take one step at a time, instead of trying to tackle everything at once.
8. Turn on some chill music or an inspirational podcast to help you deal with road rage.
9. Take a break to pet the dog, hug a loved one or do something to help someone else.
10. Work out or do something active. Movement and exercise is a great antidote for stress.
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