Chronic stress has been linked to heart disease as well as a number of other health issues, including high blood pressure, sleep, mood, and appetite disorders. Exactly how stress contributes to these problems—whether by increasing inflammation, or by contributing to unhealthy habits such as overeating, smoking, and alcohol abuse—is still unclear. Regardless, the effects of stress on your physical health are entirely real.
Thankfully, so are the benefits of following a few simple stress management tips. Effective stress management techniques have been shown to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Regulate breathing
- Slow heart rate
- Reduce stress hormone activity
- Increase blood flow to major muscles
- Reduce muscle tension & chronic pain
- Improve mood & concentration
- Improve sleep quality
- Reduce fatigue
- Reduce anger & frustration
- Boost confidence in handling problems
- Improve digestion
- Maintain normal blood sugar levels
At FastMed you can get a quick and accurate blood pressure where our experienced healthcare providers will perform the test and make recommendations based on the results. High blood pressure and low blood pressure are both very manageable, and early detection is key.
How to De-Stress, Anywhere, Anytime.
Learning how to de-stress is one the simplest and most effective ways to improve your heart health, as well as your enjoyment of life. It’s also low risk, low- or no-cost, and for the most part, requires no special location or equipment.
So, no matter what causes stress in your life, consider these simple stress management techniques to keep your heart health under control:
1. Think Positive
While you may not be able to control every situation that causes you stress, you do have a choice as to how you respond to these situations. We’ve all heard the expression, “Laughter is the best medicine.” This may, in fact, be true. Humor has been shown to lower inflammation in the arteries, reduce stress hormone levels, and increase the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
2. Develop Problem-Solving & Time Management Strategies
By learning to more effectively manage your time and by developing problem-solving strategies in advance, you should find it easier to cope with stressful situations when they arise.
Physical exercise improves your heart health by strengthening heart muscle, lowering blood pressure, and helping you maintain a healthy weight. It has also been shown to increase endorphins in the body—the chemicals responsible for boosting your mood.
Meditation, another popular de-stress strategy, helps to reduce blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors. Much like yoga and prayer, this method of focusing the mind and breathing deeply is an effective way to de-stress your body.
5. Seek Emotional Support
Build a network of family and friends you can count on when life gets out of hand. Sometimes, there’s nothing like a sympathetic ear to take the edge off a stressful situation.
It can be tough to unwind in a world where you’re constantly plugged into stress-inducing texts, emails, and 24/7 news outlets. That’s why it’s important to take time out each day to unplug from your devices. Even a short 10-minute break can help you regain your peace of mind. Better still, use this time to meditate, get a massage, take a warm bath, pursue an interesting hobby, or try one of the relaxation techniques listed below.
7. Practice Relaxation
Relaxation is not only an effective stress management technique, it’s one that takes little time, costs nothing, and pays off big in terms of health benefits. Similar to practices such as yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation, these simple de-stressing strategies use common techniques to actually decrease the effects of stress on the body and mind.
Visualization: Start by finding a quiet spot. Get comfortable, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing. Next, imagine a peaceful, relaxing place. This can be anyplace that brings you comfort, such as the ocean, a garden, or a forest, for example. Bring this place to life through the senses, including sight, sound, smell, and touch, as you relax and enjoy the moment.
Muscle relaxation: Moving through your body from head to toe, or vice versa, slowly tense each major muscle group for five seconds before relaxing it for 30 seconds. This exercise helps you become more aware of the difference in sensations between tension and relaxation.
Autogenic relaxation: Autogenic means, “coming from within.” It’s a technique that combines both visualization and body awareness to help reduce the effects of stress. An example of autogenic relaxation would be imagining a peaceful place, and then concentrating on breathing, slowing the heart rate, and relaxing each muscle group until you reach a state of calm.
Don’t get discouraged if you’re unable to master these techniques right away. Like most things in life, learning how to de-stress takes time and practice, but the benefits last a lifetime.
FastMed Urgent Care owns and operates over 100 clinics in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas that provide a broad range of acute/episodic and preventive healthcare services 365 days a year. FastMed also provides workers’ compensation and other occupational health services at all its clinics, and family and sports medicine services at select locations. FastMed has successfully treated more than six million patients and is the only independent urgent care operator in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas to be awarded The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for quality, safety and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information about locations, services, hours of operation, insurance and prices, visit www.fastmed.com.