Keeping your heart healthy is incredibly important for your whole wellbeing! Here are 5 ways to help relieve stress and help your heart.
Stress can have a profound impact on your wellbeing, yet each day we are bombarded with a range of situations that trigger our body’s natural “fight or flight” response. Chronic stress has been linked to a full spectrum of health issues, from problems with sleep to heart disease – the latter being particularly prevalent.
When you find yourself in a stressful situation – be it financial troubles or traffic in the morning – your immune system floods your body with the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, and inflammatory proteins called cytokines.
While a constant influx of cortisol and adrenaline most definitely has an impact on mental and physical health, it is chronic inflammation associated with cytokine release that is believed to lead to a hardening of the arteries and heart disease.
Learning how to manage and relieve stress can be difficult, but it is possible if you take a moment to consider the impact your lifestyle is having on your health. Here are 5 ways to help relieve stress and help your heart.
Find the Time to Exercise
Along with diet, exercise is the single most important factor contributing to our physical health. Finding the time to exercise every day can have a huge impact on stress levels in more ways than one. Research has shown that it is very effective at improving alertness, cognitive function, sleep, and concentration, and reducing fatigue overall. Doing exercise also produces endorphins, which are our body’s natural painkillers.
It is recommended that adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 times a week to promote good health. Not only does this help melt away stress, but it also helps lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and strengthen the heart muscles, which are all great for overall heart health.
Of course, if you lead a busy lifestyle, doing half an hour of exercise a day can be difficult. Try integrating it into your daily exercise routine: ride a bike to work, swim in the morning, or do boxing at lunch.
Find Out What Is Causing The Stress and Root It Out
Everyone will have their own personal triggers that are the source of their stress. It is important to take a moment and identify what these are and devise a way to manage them.
Take a look at your work life, your home life, your social life, and your relationships, assess what the root of your stress is, and work towards managing or removing it. Stress will always be present in our lives, but those who learn to cope with it are often much better off than those who don’t.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting enough sleep in one of the most crucial elements of a healthy lifestyle, almost as important as a balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise.
Sleep is vital for many aspects of brain function, from cognition and concentration to productivity and performance, and lack of sleep is closely linked with a range of mental health issues, including chronic stress. Adults are required to get 7- 9 hours of sleep every night, but factors ranging from age to health and lifestyle will determine how much sleep you need. If you are feeling stressed, make sure you are getting at least 7 hours, or more if you feel like you need it.
Schedule Time to Unplug and Unwind
Sleep is a basic necessity of life. But when it comes to stress, you also need to find the time to unplug, unwind and have some “you” time. There are a million reasons you might be stressed, but none of these are as important as making time to do the things you love.
This may be something you do with friends or family or something you do alone. What is important is that you remove yourself from the triggers that are causing you to become stressed.
Make it a priority to do this every day for at least 15 minutes. Turn off your phone, computer or TV and immerse yourself in something you find soothing (Tip: try making exercise your way to unplug – you’ll be killing two birds with one stone this way!).
Consider Breathing Techniques and Meditation
Breathing exercises and meditation can help relieve stress in a number of ways, and are an excellent way to unplug and unwind in the evening or prepare yourself for the day ahead in the morning. Both meditation and deep breathing exercises have shown to reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure. Take a look at some simple yet effective breathing techniques here.
Yoga or tai chi are excellent meditative activities. A paper published in Frontiers in Immunology, British researchers analysed the findings from more than a dozen existing studies on the biological effects of meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, Qi gong and Tai Chi, and found to suppress the expression of genes and genetic pathways that promote inflammation. Great news for stress and for your heart!
References available on request.