Stress. We all experience it, and everyone can benefit from reducing it. Stress can wreak havoc on your health - including your heart health. And reducing stress can go a long way to helping you prevent and maybe even reverse conditions that can lead to heart disease. So, what can you do to reduce your stress and save your heart?
Here are some tips for reducing stress that can have the added benefit of improving your heart health.
Getting regular exercise and making it a point to increase your activity level throughout the day can reduce stress. Exercise reduces your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. It also releases endorphins, which are known as the body’s feel good chemicals. But they don’t just make you feel good, they also help combat stress. The key to incorporating regular exercise into your life is to find activities you enjoy. If working out feels like a chore and is just another thing you have to do, the stress-reducing benefits may not be as great. But if you enjoy the activity, you’ll experience a double benefit. Before you start any new exercise routine, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you.
Laughter is a great way to reduce stress hormones. It also helps reduce inflammation and can increase your HDL (the good cholesterol). Here’s what laughter does to your body: It increases the oxygen level throughout your body; it helps relieve tension by relaxing your muscles; it relieves your stress response; and it can help improve your mood and your immune system. Laughter just makes us feel good. So, try to look for humor in everyday life (it’s okay to laugh at yourself), spend time with people who make you laugh (we’ve all seen how laughter can be contagious), or watch a comedy movie or show.
Yoga helps relax and strengthen your body, calm your mind, and center your thoughts. It’s a great exercise for your heart. It helps reduce blood pressure and lower other risks for developing heart disease. And it can also help you manage the inevitable stress in your life.
Keeping a gratefulness journal or just spending a few minutes each day thinking about what you’re grateful for can have numerous benefits and enormous health effects that can protect your heart health and reduce stress. It can improve your mood, boost your immune system, reduce the effects of aging on the brain, help you sleep better, and reduce stress. One study showed that people who were grateful had about a 25 percent reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.
Meditate or pray
Meditation and prayer have been shown to reduce blood pressure and other risks for heart disease. In addition, they can help you focus on what’s important to you and manage stress more effectively.
Deep breathing and relaxation exercises are good for your body and your mind. They bring more oxygen into your body, and they have been shown to decrease the levels of cortisol in your body and even temporarily reduce blood pressure.
Listen to music
Music can help you relax, and some types of music can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol level. Soothing music likely has the greatest relaxation effect, but just listening to music you enjoy can help you feel better and manage stress more effectively. The sounds of nature, like waves crashing, thunderstorms, birds singing, can also be calming and may have an effect like music.
Go for a hike
Combining exercise with time spent outside can be a great stress reliever. While you’re walking, pay attention to the world around you. Listen to the sounds of nature, look at all the color and texture, touch leaves and flowers, feel the ground beneath your feet. Let nature fill your senses. You don’t have to walk fast or far to get the stress-relieving benefits of spending some time outside. If you can, leave your screens behind and just enjoy the natural world.
Many people find that keeping a journal can help them reduce stress. Write about anything that comes to mind. Some people reflect upon their day, write about their plans, or as we mentioned earlier, keep a gratefulness journal. Some people find that writing down their goals helps them feel less stressed and more motivated. The act of writing with a pen or pencil and paper can also help you relax and can take you away from screens, which is another benefit of writing.
Spending time with friends and family can improve your mental and physical health. One study showed that spending time with friends and children helps release the natural stress relieving chemical oxytocin. Many studies have shown that people with a strong social network tend to live longer and recover better after health crises, such as a heart attack. Having close friends and family members you can turn to can help you manage stress and make your life more enjoyable, which can also reduce stress.
Take a nap
Napping can feel really good, and it can also help reduce your body’s cortisol levels, which can help relieve stress. Besides, napping may also help ensure you get enough sleep, which can also help keep stress at bay.
There are studies that show hugging can reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels. Besides that, it feels good.
Get a cat or a dog
Spending time with animals helps lower stress hormones, and petting cats and dogs can reduce blood pressure temporarily. At least one study showed that spending time with dogs can increase oxytocin, making you feel good. Also, if you have a dog, you’re more likely to get exercise since your dog will encourage you to grab a leash and go for a walk, so you get a double benefit!
Learn how to say no
You’ve probably hear it a hundred times - you can’t make everyone happy all the time. If you have difficulty finding time in your day to do the things that are important to your health and your family, you might benefit from finding ways to cut some things from your schedule. Make time to exercise, relax, and do things that help reduce stress rather than increasing it.
As you can see, there are many things you can do to reduce stress in your life and, in turn, improve your heart health. Stress relief is within your control. You’ve got this!