Stress Busters-4 Tips for a Happier Heart
Your pituitary gland and your adrenal glands release certain hormones that affect your body. In addition to minor effects like headaches and tense muscles, stress hormones can cause problems with your digestive and immune systems. They also can affect your heart and blood vessels—your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, and your cholesterol levels go up. All of which can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Plus, if you've been diagnosed with heart disease or stroke, it can cause anxiety or depression. It turns into a vicious cycle, making it doubly important to reduce stress.
4 Ways to Deal with Stress
Here are some stress-busting techniques you can incorporate into your daily life.
1. Positive self-talk. Negative self-talk increases stress. Positive self-talk helps you calm down and control stress. With practice, you can learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. For example, instead of telling yourself "I can't do this." try reframing that as "I'll do the best I can."
To help you feel better, practice positive self-talk every day — in the car, at your desk, before you go to bed or whenever you notice negative thoughts. Try positive statements such as these:
- "I can handle things if I take one step at a time."
- "I can get help if I need it."
- "I'm human, and we all make mistakes."
- "Someday I'll laugh about this."
- "I can deal with this situation when I feel better."
2. Emergency stress stoppers. Stressful situations can pop up unexpectedly — at work, at home, on the road and in public places. Something as simple as poor communication or standing in line can sometimes derail your day.
To help you deal with stress on the spot, try these emergency stress stoppers:
- Count to 10 before you speak.
- Take three to five deep breaths.
- Go for a walk and handle the stressful situation later.
- Don't be afraid to say "I'm sorry" if you make a mistake.
- Set your watch five to 10 minutes ahead to avoid the stress of being late.
- Break down big problems into smaller parts. For example, answer one letter or phone call per day, instead of dealing with everything at once.
3. Finding pleasure. Doing things you enjoy is a natural way to fight off stress. Try to do at least one thing every day that brings you please, even if it's just for 15 minutes.
It doesn't have to be a big production, either. Even if you're ill or down, you can find pleasure in simple things. Ideas include:
- Start an art project or craft (painting, scrapbooking or knitting).
- Read a favorite book, magazine or newspaper.
- Have coffee or a meal with friends.
- Play a fun sport (golf, tennis, ping-pong or bowling).
- Listen to music, watch TV or go to a movie.
- Take a nature walk or hike ( listen to the birds, identify trees and flowers).
- Play cards or board games with family.
4. Daily relaxation. More than sitting in your favorite chair watching TV, relaxation should calm the tension in your mind and body to relieve stress. Like most skills, relaxation takes practice. Many people join a class to learn and practice relaxation skills such as yoga, tai chi and meditation.
If you don't have time to take a class, deep breathing is a form of relaxation you can learn and practice at home using the following steps.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap, or lie down.
- Close your eyes.
- Picture yourself in a peaceful place. (On the beach, walking in the mountains or floating in the clouds.) Hold this scene in your mind.
- Inhale and exhale. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply.
- Continue to breathe slowly for 10 minutes or more.
- Try to take at least five to 10 minutes every day for deep breathing or another form of relaxation. It's a good way to start or end your day.
Source content for this article was provided by the American Heart Association. Learn more at www.heart.org.
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