Health Advocate Blog

Keep stress in check for a healthier heart

Chronic stress, whether it stems from juggling work and life responsibilities, relationship issues or another source, not only harms your mental well-being but can also cause physical changes that can increase your blood cholesterol and blood pressure, key risk factors for heart disease. Experiencing chronic stress can also lead to unhealthy coping behaviors that can increase the risk of heart disease, such as drinking alcohol, overeating, or smoking cigarettes.

No matter what the source of your stress, the following strategies can help calm your system and decrease the effects of stress, keeping your heart healthy and increasing your well-being.

  • Practice positive self-talk. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, remind yourself that you’re doing enough, you don’t have to be perfect, and that you can do it!
  • Get enough sleep. If you’re not sleeping soundly, your mood, ability to solve problems and make decisions, energy level, and physical health may all be affected.
  • Do something creative. Adult coloring books are all the rage right now, and coloring can help you feel calmer. Not into coloring? Try drawing (even if it’s just doodling!), writing in a journal, painting, knitting, or working on a hobby or craft project. These activities can all help take your mind off your stressors.
  • Try exercising. Physical activity can not only keep you healthy—it can also alleviate stress. Even a simple activity like walking can help you get moving and is a good stress reliever.
  • Find a relaxation technique that works for you. Things like mindfulness meditation, tai chi, yoga, or deep breathing can all help you feel calmer. Not every activity is a good fit for everyone, so experiment until you find one you like!
  • Be prepared. Sometimes feeling stressed is due to not being properly prepared for situations. Make an effort to leave your home with enough time so that you get to work and other destinations on time. Manage your time effectively so that you can meet deadlines. Manage your finances efficiently so you are never “in the red.”
  • Improve your time management skills. If you’re frequently stressed out due to work and/or family demands, these skills can help you balance your duties better.
  • Treat yourself. Doing something nice for yourself can help you reduce stress. Try cooking yourself your favorite meal, going to get a massage, buying yourself a new book, or whatever makes you happy!
  • Don’t let stress build up. If there’s a situation you’re feeling stressed about, confront that stress head-on. Negotiate with others, problem-solve, and brainstorm ideas to make the situation better.
  • Make time to talk, laugh, and connect with family and friends. Spending time with loved ones can help you feel happier. Having a good support system to talk through issues with, or simply spend time having fun together, can help you stress less.
  • Avoid multitasking. No matter how demanding of a job you have, doing things one at a time is the best course of action. When you multitask, you don’t always focus well on any of the tasks you’re trying to do, and it can feel more stressful and chaotic.
  • Breathe deeply. When you are having a stressful moment, turn it into a peaceful, calming moment with some deep breathing. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and focus on your breath.

If you are experiencing ongoing stress, and especially if you are having anxiety or other symptoms, be sure to let your healthcare professional know.