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Assess Your Stress To Help Your Heart

Posted Jun 01 2012 2:59pm

If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom? ~ Kahlil Gibran

Stress is the way our body reacts to change. This week, we are talking about emotional stress because it is something within our control, whereas physical stressors aren’t always. Our bodies are designed to adapt to stress but sometimes the way we react to that stress creates more of it. We have the power to choose our perceptions of and responses to any occurrence.

How does stress affect the heart?

Inflamed reactions and worry have more than just a passing physiological affect on the body. The instinctive “fight-or-flight” response increases the heart rate and blood pressure. Blood flow is re-directed to the muscular system releasing fats into the bloodstream to be used as energy, speeds breathing or makes it more difficult, and increases cortisol and triglyceride levels. Continued stress can lead to an abnormal heart rhythm, elevate your risk for heart disease, and cause a stroke or heart attack.

Your physical and mental well-being are worth getting control of emotional stress and anger. Stress is a normal part of life and dealing with it effectively decreases the risk of suffering from heart ailments.

5 Calm Coping Actions

An enlightened soul radiates love and light. And I mean radiates. This can be you! Here are five methods you can adopt to control your responses to emotional stress and do a little soul-searching.

1) Starting today, you have a clean slate! Give yourself permission to start anew and let go of what is weighing you down. Create your own moral code of conduct independent of religious virtues, which can occupy another space in your life. This tip is an exercise on living morally in this life so you are able to attain your maximum potential. Too worried to let go? That’s ok, move on to step 2.

2) “Seventy-five percent to ninety percent of all primary care visits are stress-related” (HealthMath). Knowledge is the first step to solving any problem. Identifying your particular stressors will enable you to tune in to methods of coping with them specifically. A good place to start is with this free, simple assessment tool  from HealthMath. The tool measures perceived stress and reactions to life situations. Intrinsic and extrinsic variables are measured, and analysis is based on responses. Identification of stressors can help us tune in to our reactions, reign in the drama or the feeling of being overwhelmed, and develop new coping abilities. Helpful tips are based on your score.

3) Take care of business. Like my first car salesman told me, “You’re not gonna do it (make the loan payment every month) unless you have to.” This extends to all areas of life. Staying on top of chores, bills and other duties or commitments leaves you feeling responsible and self-sufficient, and frees up time to pursue other interests, including step 4.

4) Spend uninterrupted time on personal reflection. You may have to complete this step many times before you make any notable progress. Try journal-writing, free-association writing, meditation or prayer, or taking long walks by yourself for the sole purpose of soul-searching. If you can’t seem to find the time, schedule it on your calendar. Use this time to shut out external “noise” and self-talk, remain in a calm state, and open your mind to all possibilities. Allow your inner voice/the light within you/your true spirit to guide you in defining your purpose in life. This does not include all the “should do’s,” but ideas that enable your inner light to shine through you and outward to touch other people in a positive way. Where do your talents lie? About what are you passionate? What is unique about you? What feeds your soul and makes your spirit soar? The answers are already within you. When you finally find them, make a written plan addressing how you can incorporate them into action every day.

5) Respond to anxiety, rather than react to it. Choose what you will say or do to keep the situation in perspective. Avoid shouting or swearing as this increases tension and induces stress within the other people around you. Face your stressor(s) head on and do not settle on a compromise unless it leaves you feeling joyful.

Your heart health depends on your ability to manage stress. Managing stress is completely within your control. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” For heart’s sake, is it time to make a healthy change?

Related Reading

Journal of the American Medical Association, Chronic Stress and the Heart


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