Managing Stress and Blood Pressure
Be Mindful Of These Tips To Lower Your Stress Level
In today’s fast-paced world filled with increasing demands, it’s important to manage your stress level. Some people cope with stress by overeating or eating unhealthy foods, smoking, drinking and other activities that raise their risk for heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure.
Although stress is not a confirmed risk factor for either high blood pressure or heart disease, and has not been proven to cause heart disease, scientists continue to study how stress relates to our health. And while blood pressure may increase temporarily when you’re stressed, stress has not been proven to cause chronic high blood pressure.
How much stress do you live with, and what is the cost to your health?
Stress definitely affects our bodies. In addition to the emotional discomfort we feel when faced with a stressful situation, our bodies react by releasing stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) into the blood. These hormones prepare the body for the “fight or flight response” by making the heart beat faster and constricting blood vessels to get more blood to the core of the body instead of the extremities.
Constriction of blood vessels and increase in heart rate does raise blood pressure, but only temporarily; when the stress reaction goes away, blood pressure returns to its pre-stress level. This is called situational stress, and its effects are generally short-lived and disappear when the stressful event is over.
“Fight or flight” is a valuable response when we are faced with an imminent threat that we can handle by confronting or fleeing. However, our modern world contains many stressful events that we can’t handle with those options. Chronic (constant) stress causes our bodies to go into high gear on and off for days or weeks at a time. The links between chronic stress and blood pressure are not clear.
What can I do to reduce my stress?
Although stress does not clearly cause heart disease, it can play a role in general wellness. Learning new lifestyle habits sometimes requires clearing out the mental clutter. When you can turn down the stress response, you can tune in to good health.
Here are some ways you can learn to be mindful about stressful situations and how you might change what is within your power to change.
Reduce stress by changing your expectations
Give yourself enough time to get things done. Time management works wonders for reducing stress. Don’t try to pack too much into every moment.
Learn to say “no.” Don’t promise too much. Reduce the amount of tension by having a shorter of list items that must be done. This may require you to reevaluate priorities and make difficult choices, but everyone must learn to live within manageable limits.
Reduce stress by recognizing where you have control
You can’t control all the outside events in your life, but you can change how you handle them emotionally and psychologically. Try to learn to accept things you can’t change. You don’t have to solve all of life’s problems.
Think about problems under your control and make a plan to solve them. You could talk to your boss about difficulties at work, talk with your neighbor if his dog bothers you or get help when you have too much to do.
Know your stress triggers. Think ahead about what may upset you. Some things you can avoid. For example, spend less time with people who bother you or avoid driving in rush-hour traffic.
Reduce stress by taking care of your mood
Relaxing is important, even if you are busy. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of a peaceful picture.
Spend time developing supportive and nurturing relationships. We all need supportive and encouraging relationships. Invest yourself in developing relationships that build character and foster growth.
Give yourself the gift of good self maintenance. Engage in physical activity regularly. Do what you enjoy; walk, swim, ride a bike or jog to get your big muscles going. Letting go of the tension in your body will help you feel better. Limit alcohol, don’t overeat and don’t smoke.
Relaxing for short periods during your workday, at night and on weekends may help lower your blood pressure. Another great stress-buster is to get regular physical activity, as recommended by the American Heart Association.
Reduce stress by practicing gratitude and joy
Practice gratitude. Change how you respond to difficult situations, focusing on the positive, not the negative. Expressing gratitude to others can also boost your level of feeling good about life and reduce stressful thoughts.
Know what brings you pleasure and find ways to enjoy the experience. Perhaps you enjoy volunteer opportunities or cooking your favorite foods. By taking time not only to participate in these activities but to intentionally enjoy them, you can build a satisfying life rather than hurry through your “relaxing activities” at a stressful pace.
Reduce stress by keeping a sense of humor
Laughter may be the best medicine, or at least one of the best. Research suggests laughter can decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation and increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
A bonus with laughter is that its effects have been found to last 24 hours. That’s a good reason to laugh every day.
Courtesy of The American Heart Association.
Managing Stress and Blood Pressure