What stresses you out? Your daily commute? Office politics? Your mother-in-law? The fact that you’ve got miles to go to retirement?
If you’re constantly under stress, and you don’t have good coping strategies, you’re more likely to have high blood pressure, chest pain, or experience irregular heartbeats.
Here’s why. Stress triggers your body’s “fight or flight” response which causes your body to tense, your blood pressure to rise, and your heart to beat faster. It’s not a good thing for these stress hormones to rage through your body all the time.
What’s more, stress makes it more likely for a person to smoke, overeat, consume caffeinated beverages, self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, and lead a sedentary lifestyle. All of which can negatively influence your heart health.
How Stressed Out Are You?
When you’re over-stressed, your mind and body will give you warning signs. If you answer yes to more than one of these questions, you may be experiencing stress overload.
- Do you feel like you’re not yourself?
- Do you feel overwhelmed?
- Do you feel unable to cope with the workload you’re usually able to handle?
- Do you often feel anxious, angry, irritable or tense?
- Do you get headaches or stiffness/tension in your muscles, jaw or back?
- Are you unable to concentrate or remember things?
- Do you frequently experience upset stomach, skin rashes, racing heartbeat, or sweaty palms?
- Are you more tired or have a lower energy level than usual?
- Do you have a lack of interest in the things that used to interest you?
- Do you have trouble sleeping?
- Are you using alcohol or drugs to escape your problems?
Not to worry, by managing the pressures of every day life, you can help eliminate the risks to your heart health. The American Heart Association recommends four ways to safely deal with stress.
- Practice positive self-talk. By being positive in stressful situations, you can calm yourself down and control your stress.
- Embrace emergency stress stoppers. Combat stress on the spot by counting to 10 before speaking, taking a few deep breaths, walking away from stressful situations, and breaking big problems down to smaller ones.
- Seek pleasure. When you’re feeling stressed out, do something that makes you feel good. Just 15 minutes of a favorite activity can lower your stress levels.
- Relax every day. Calm the tension in your body and mind through yoga, tai chi, or meditation.