In our last article, we discussed the impact of stress on the development of Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease, most specifically coronary artery disease and cerebral vascular disease.
We identified the problem. Now, let’s try to fix it.
Stress Reduction Techniques:
Eliminating the source of stress would be the answer to stress reduction, but it is nearly impossible to remove all stress from life. What we can do is reduce the impact stress has on our bodies and our minds. To do so, we need to properly use both our bodies and our minds.
There are techniques we can use, both mental and physical, that can reduce the impact of stress, even if it cannot remove the source of our stress. Your physician has almost certainly suggested some of these techniques if you are experiencing pain as a result of ASCVD. But, let’s go over the most well-known and proven techniques and see if we can alleviate some of your sufferings as a result.
Identify The Source:
This may seem like a silly exercise to you. After all, you know what is stressing you to the point it is damaging or endangering your health.
But, are you sure you are identifying the proper stressor? Is it the outside force that is adding stress, or is it your attitude toward that outside force that is the problem?
Here is one example: you believe your major cause of stress is your work. You either have too much of it, or you find it difficult to leave your work at the end of the day. Even if you are working remotely, you do not release yourself from your responsibilities when you are supposed to be done with your workday. Therefore, the stressor is not your work; it is you.
This is not to suggest your stressors are not real. They are, certainly. But, how you approach and handle the stress is a major factor in how it affects your health. If you can release yourself from some of the pressures you place upon yourself, you can reduce your stress level. You can probably get more work done, also.
The Small Stuff:
That cute turn of phrase – “Don’t sweat the small stuff” – is a nice mantra to have. But, to reduce your stress and improve your health, it is better to eliminate the small stuff so that you can take on the task presented by the larger projects.
Going one step further, one key to dealing with outside forces of pressure is to turn them into “small stuff”. Look at the larger issues you face and see if there are small factors that you can take care of with relative ease. By doing so, you will have fewer items on your pressure plate and you will also experience the sense of accomplishment, which provides a dopamine hit. If you can turn your large pressure tasks into a series of smaller ones, you can reduce the stress it causes and receive a heart and mental health boost by eliminating tasks from your to-do list.
Meditation, yoga, guided imagery, and all of the similar relaxation practices are invaluable tools to reduce stress. These practices encourage you to focus your mind on pleasant or singular thoughts, streamlining your thought processes to one point so that they push away the thousands of other thoughts that are adding to your stress level. Yoga is the practice of getting your body into a relaxed position so that your mind can reach the proper meditative state.
The argument against meditation or guided imagery as stress-relieving exercises is that the forces of stress will still be present when you come out of your meditative state. That is true. However, by spending those few moments of focused, simple thought, you have momentarily relieved your body of the stress factors and, perhaps, allowed you to recognize that those factors are perhaps not as important as you previously thought. Furthermore, these activities can be easily repeated whenever you feel stress building up to an uncomfortable level, as you reprogram your thoughts.
To support this approach, we are in the process of adding stress-reducing recorded sessions of guided imagery to our Learning Center for members to access and repeat.
GET UP! GET OUT!:
You cannot walk or run away from your problems, but you can reduce the impact of stress by walking or running. Any physical activity can provide positive mental effects. If you push yourself, walking or running fast enough to wear yourself out, you will in turn lose sight of your stress sources momentarily. You will also benefit with better sleep cycles, which have probably been affected by the stress that is hurting your heart.
The idea is to reduce the number of minutes within a day that your stress is hurting you. Exercise will take your mind off of your outside pressures, and will allow you to sleep better, thereby reducing the number of minutes in a day that you are thinking about all of those stress factors.
Our next intended series of Blog Articles will focus on walking.
Eat Something Healthy:
You probably realize that your appetite has been affected by your stress. You can improve your attitude and reduce your stress by making sure you eat properly, which means eating proper amounts and eating the correct sorts of food. Avoiding processed foods is going to be your best bet, while eating complex carbohydrate items such as whole grains and vegetables is going to improve your outlook.
Medications, If You Must :
All of the above are methods you can employ on your own without significant cost or complication. You can address your stress with medications, but that is a conversation to be had with your doctor to determine what best suits your specific health situation. If you are under treatment for ASCVD already, then your stress medication must be aligned with your other medications to make sure they are working in a coordinated fashion.
We invite you to contact us at myhealthypotential.com to discuss any issue related to the health of your heart.