HEART DISEASE AND HOW TO MANAGE STRESS
The pace of our everyday lives can put tremendous strain on not just our physical health but also our mental health. There are always people or things that demand our attention, and more often than not it is ourselves that we put under the most pressure. It can even be our own expectations that can cause us the most pressure and we often drive ourselves too hard.
When we find ourselves thinking about a situation that is stressful our body responds in a physical way. These thought patterns trigger the release of a hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline makes the heart rate quickens, blood pressure rises, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, your muscles tense and your senses become more alert. This physical response to a thought is known as the “fight or flight response”. These physical changes are there to help you stand your ground and fight, or turn and run away from danger.
Everyday life does not now normally put us in such a dangerous position but feeling anxious, angry or even frustrated at having to wait our turn, can cause these physical symptoms to occur.
Below some of the common signs of being stressed,
. Inability to concentrate
. Seeing only the negative
. Anxious or racing thoughts
. Constant worrying
. Irritability or short temper
. Feeling agitated,
. Feeling overwhelmed
. Feeling lonely and isolated
. Depression or general unhappiness
Stress symptoms can also exhibit themselves in physical ways such as
. Diarrhoea or constipation
. Nausea, dizziness
. Frequent colds, being run down
. Comfort eating
. Lack of appetite
. Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
. Isolating yourself from others
. Using cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs to relax
. Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
The aches and pains that often come with being stressed can be as a result of poor posture. The muscles tense up and cause round shoulders which then sets off tension in the neck. Once we start to experience stress it can be hard to break the cycle.
Although it is not possible to stop the production of adrenaline, it is possible to take some action to reduce its effects. There are a variety of ways to do this but two of the ways dealt with here are to
- think about your breathing
- how you stand, your posture.
By standing up straight the body will be under less pressure and tension from the muscles that support us and have to work hard all day. See the article on “Posture and Backs”
Deep breathing increases the oxygen levels in the body and muscular tension can be reduced. Learning how to breathe properly is a great key to reducing the affects of stress. Most people do not breathe correctly, and the vast majority of the population only breathe from the top part of the chest.
Check yourself now. Continue to breathe as you normally do and place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. What can you feel, what hand rises? If the top hand rises then you are breathing from the chest and if the lower hand rises you are breathing from the abdomen.
Shallow breathing means that you are not fully using inflating your lungs. This in turn can lead to chest infections as stale air is left at the bottom of the lungs. As the lungs are not fully being inflated, this will result in less oxygen being transferred to the blood stream, which in turn means less energy for you.
Deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing as it is also known, calms the body, increases energy and oxygen and reduces tension. It is possible to train yourself to become a deep breather, but it does take practice but you will soon reap the rewards,
How to breathe deeply.
Make sure that you are either standing or sitting tall. You may like to try this lying down the first couple of times.
Take a breath in through your nose and feel it go down into your stomach. As you breathe in check that you are not breathing to hard, it is about taking it down to the stomach normally, not about forcing it down.
As you breathe in, place your hands along the lower ribs with fingers pointing in towards your belly button. If you are aware of the ribs expanding and the stomach rising you have got it.
Continue breathing as above and check that your shoulders are down and relaxed. Allow your breathing rate to slow down and deepen, you will soon be feeling a lot calmer.
A great place to practice this is outside in the fresh air, go for a walk in the local park, countryside or even sit in your garden.
If you find that you were answering yes to many of the signs of stress, then take some action, talk to a trusted friend or go and talk to your Doctor. Don’t let your stress levels build up take some positive action.
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