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Published on April 18, 2018

illustration of a womans busy life

Stress Less for your Heart Health

Your body likes to tell you things, and there are many physical signs that could be your body’s way of telling you that you are over-stressed.

Those indicators include things such as headaches, indigestion, muscle tension and pain. If you feel those, or sense a racing heart, mood swings or food cravings, each of these symptoms could be rising from a mismanagement of stress.

Stress is part of life, but when we move into a lifestyle where we’re over-stressed, it’s important to recognize and address it. Prolonged stress can contribute to chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart disease, and could bring difficulty sleeping and exhaustion, thus starting a cycle that seems inescapable.

Let’s start by identify stressors in your life and finding ways to release the tension they cause. These are the keys to managing stress.

Effective stress management always starts with a solid foundation of regular self-care, including the basics like eating right. A healthy diet, based in whole foods, fuels your body with energy, allowing you to manage the day.

This sort of diet also supports a robust gastrointestinal flora, which is an important part of your overall health. A diet that focuses on low glycemic index foods, such as one with tons of vegetables, will best support an optimal microbiome in your gut.

What that means is the “good bacteria” in our gut will thrive, and since they communicate for the enteric nervous system – an information superhighway to the brain – you’re helping to optimize the management of multiple bodily functions. You want these good guys on your side when it comes to your health.

Regular exercise helps modulate stress hormones as well, and it boosts your mood, helps curb stress-related food cravings and improves sleep. Exercise as much as you can, and if you’re not doing it now, start with walking and gradually work to a point where you’re sweating and setting goals. Without exercise, you’re unlikely to reduce stress in the long run.

Exercise can help you as you aim to develop an optimal sleep routine. Adequate sleep is important to help your body manage stress, and while most people need seven to eight hours of sleep every night to give the body important rejuvenation time, you may need more or less. Find your optimal amount, get it daily, and you’ll remain resilient during stressful situations.

You can augment these basic approaches with additional steps. Essential oils, acupuncture, massage and relaxation techniques all are effective tools for stress management. They can aid in the balance of stress hormones, boost mood, improve sleep, as well as decrease physical symptoms of stress such as headaches, pain and stomach upset. They can directly impact our bodies through the nervous system.

When it comes to essential oils, consider this group and remember, you can add them to a bath or use a diffuser to get them into your daily routine:

  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Bergamot
  • Ylang ylang
  • Clary sage
  • Jasmine

Naturally, in this smart-phone-centric era, there are apps such as Head Space, Calm, Happify, Mindshift, and Breathe 2 Relax that offer convenient tools so you can whip up a daily stress break without much effort.

Regular mindfulness practices such as yoga, guided imagery or deep breathing are affordable, effective stress management tools that require as little as 10-15 minutes of your day.

Time in the outdoors also has a calming effect on our bodies. Experience nature as often as possible, and if you have opportunities to walk outdoors – take them. Find seasonal outdoor activities that you enjoy, even in the winter. A daily morning run with my dogs has been a foundation of my stress management routine for 15 years.

Self-care has to be priority. It will afford you resiliency during the high stress times of life, and allow you to care for others more effectively. When you implement management tools, you can prevent stress or manage it. When you do, you’ll be avoiding stress-caused illnesses.

Life feels good when you are healthy.

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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