What do you do to keep high blood pressure in check? Exercise more? Yep. Eat a healthier diet? You bet. Lose weight? Sure thing. But one often-overlooked strategy for lowering blood pressure and improving heart health is learning how to effectively manage stress.
Feeling stressed or anxious can put added pressure on your heart, which can boost blood pressure and leave you more susceptible to a cardiovascular event. Over time, high stress levels may lead to premature aging and other physical and mental symptoms that further threaten overall health. A few ways to reduce stress in your life include:
- Prioritizing sleep: Poor quality or not enough hours of sleep can diminish mood and promote stress. Practicing good sleep hygiene, getting more exercise, and including more magnesium into your diet might all help improve sleep duration and quality.
- Work on time management: Feeling pressed on time can be a huge contributor to stress. If you can learn to juggle the commitments in your life (friends, family, work) more efficiently, you’re likely to experience less stress. Coming up with a schedule that allows you to focus on one thing at a time while ignoring nothing, can help.
- Seek resolution of stressful situations: When you find yourself in a stressful situation, don’t let it fester. Address what’s on your mind and be honest with the others involved. This may involve calling a meeting or discussion session with friends, family members, or co-workers to hash things out and negotiate a more tolerable situation.
- Learn a relaxation technique: Techniques like mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, tai chi, and yoga can all be useful for calming the nerves. Finding one or more than you enjoy might help reduce stress levels to keep blood pressure under control.
- Get more involved: Utilizing an existing social network or joining a new one is another way to relieve the pressures of stress. Yes, you’ll be adding another commitment to the calendar, but the benefits of taking a class, joining a community group (like hiking or acting clubs), or connecting with friends can do a lot for improving mood and reducing stress.
Another way to reduce stress is to ease up on yourself. Putting too much pressure on yourself can be a significant source of stress, so make time for some self-compassion from time to time. It can be taking a moment to appreciate the good things you’ve done or rewarding yourself by taking an afternoon off, enjoying a walk, or going for a massage.