Stress—it’s that dirty little six-letter word associated with daylong coffee binges, nail-biting and anxiety.
In some cases, stress isn’t a bad thing. You might find the added pressure helps you get more done at work or increases your energy levels. Still, extended periods of stress may be harmful to your health, because it leaves your heart exposed to high levels of stress hormones known as catecholamines.
Left unchecked, stress can help trigger a host of problems, including:
· Increased heart rates and high blood pressure
· Abnormal heart rhythms
· Artery damage, including coronary artery disease
· Bad habits such as smoking, overeating,
and drug & alcohol abuse
· Problems breathing
· Heart failure and stroke
Harvard researchers found that women with highly stressful jobs were 40% more likely to develop heart disease than colleagues facing less stress.
Sending stress on its way
When you’re facing a stressful situation, managing it may seem like an impossible task. But for the sake of your heart, try these tips:
Figure out the cause of the stress and address it. Is it your desk buried under piles of work? Take a chunk of time out of your workday to relax, such as a leisurely stroll on your lunch break—and make sure you take that break!
Be good to your body. Don’t turn to greasy, high-calorie, high-fat fast food—focus on healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Exercise on most days, don’t drink alcohol in excess or take drugs; and establish a regular sleep routine (get at least 7-8 hours’ sleep a night).
Bend an ear. Talk about your problems with a loved one, or find a trusted friend who can lend support and give practical counsel.
Learn the art of relaxation. Techniques include slow, deep breathing and focused imagery (pushing stress aside in favor of a relaxing image).
It is possible to win the battle with stress—and to the victor goes a healthy, more balanced and enjoyable life!