According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the link between stress and cardiovascular disease isn’t clear. However, the AHA says that stress can lead to unhealthy habits and behaviors that are related to heart disease. These habits can include eating too much sodium, lack of exercise, and consuming too much alcohol. Stress presents differently in everyone, but no matter how it manifests, stress can have a negative physical and emotional impact on your life.
Manage Stress Proactively and Feel Better
Take a moment to think about how stress affects you. Do you feel angry, depressed, tense, or get easily irritated when you’re stressed? Do you experience physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, and tight muscles? All of these are common symptoms of stress that can interfere with daily life if left ignored. Luckily, there are many ways to combat stress easily and effectively. Consider the list of stress management tips below and experiment to see what works best for you. The AHA recommends the following tips, along with many others:
- Daily physical activity: Dedicate time each day to completing some form of physical activity. Keep in mind, this does not need to be rigorous or intense to be effective. A simple 30-minute walk each day can help you to clear your mind, relax, and decompress. If you have a desk job, set a timer to get up and walk around the office for 5-10 minutes each hour.
- Talk with friends and family: Many times, speaking with others allows you to gain a different perspective on the issue at hand, and just saying out loud how you feel is enough to relieve the emotions related to stress. Meet with friends and family weekly to share stories, feelings, goals, or just to have a good laugh.
- Prioritize the task at hand: Can what you’re doing wait until tomorrow? Often times it helps to take a step away from a stressful situation and revisit it later on. This allows you to think about the situation and calm down before continuing.
- Find a Hobby: Bike riding, knitting, listening to or playing music, reading, hiking, art, etc. Whatever you’re into, finding a hobby is a great way to take a break from stress and do something you enjoy.
Take time each day to practice these tips. Establish healthy habits and dedicate time to practicing stress management- you’ll find that you feel much better sooner than you’d expect, and your new, healthy behaviors will easily replace unhealthy responses to stress. For more information on the effects of stress and how to work towards a less-stressful life, visit the American Heart Association and call Alaska Heart & Vascular Association to schedule a cardiac consultation.