Drop the Pressure
Scientists continue to study how stress relates to our health. Today’s fast-paced world is filled with increasing demands and our bodies react by releasing stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) into the blood. These hormones make the heart beat faster and constrict blood vessels causing a temporary spike in blood pressure.
While the link between chronic stress and blood pressure is not clear, short-term stress related spikes in blood pressure add up over time and may put you at risk of developing long-term high blood pressure. Reducing stress may or may not help to lower blood pressure in the long run, but using strategies to manage your stress can definitely improve your health in other ways. Mastering stress management techniques can lead to other behavior changes —including those that reduce blood pressure.
You have many options when it comes to managing stress. Here are a few techniques you may find useful:
• Strengthen your social network. Don’t overlook the benefits of building relationships with others. Connect with others at a club, while taking a class, or volunteering for a cause that you’re passionate about.
• Take time to nurture yourself. Carve out time each day to do something that relaxes you. Whether that’s going for a walk, reading a book, taking a nap, or listening to your favorite music, take some time each and every day to focus on yourself — even if it’s only for 10 minutes.
• Get enough sleep. People often underestimate the effect lack of sleep can have on their mood. Inadequate sleep, or poor quality sleep, can negatively affect your mood, energy level, mental alertness, and physical health.
• Practice relaxation techniques. Meditation, guided imagery, yoga, and deep breathing can do wonders for the mind, body, and soul. These are powerful stress busters.
• Develop time management skills. The better we are able to juggle work, family obligations, and life’s increasing demands, the lower our stress level. Sometimes prioritizing the daily to-do list can lead to a more focused, stress-free day.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to your social network, family, and neighbors when you need it. We all need help now and then and can benefit from the guidance and helping hand from others. It’s never a sign of weakness to ask for help.
It may take some time to discover what works for you and you may need to experiment with different strategies. It’s worth the effort to relieve the stress and drop the pressure. However, should you find that your stress persists, be sure to speak with your doctor. He or she can suggest other techniques that may be helpful for you.
Danbury Hospital’s Integrative Medicine Department offers a variety of outpatient services that can help you focus on relaxation and promote overall well-being. For more information call (203) 852-CALM (2256).
Living Well: Stress