And boy, during this time of year, do we ever need it. Here we are, smack in the middle of busiest and often, most stressful time of the year. Of course, the holiday season is fun, but is there ever a whole lot to get done. Right? Life is stressful enough on its own, dealing with work, traffic and simply getting done all of the things we have to get done on a typical day. But add to that the bustle of Christmas shopping, decorating, party-planning and it can all really take a toll on your state of mind. All of that stress is no good for you during the holidays or any day for that matter. Too much stress has been linked to a number of health issues, including bad moods, sleep and even heart problems.
Doctors don't know exactly how chronic stress affects the heart.
Doctors don't know exactly how chronic stress affects the heart. More than likely, stress triggers inflammation, a known instigator of heart disease. (That hasn't been 100% proven, but is still something to consider.) Stress may influence heart disease in more subtle ways though. For example, when they're stressed, people often end up eating unhealthy foods and tend to not get enough exercise time. (Now there's a bad combination.) Hey, beat the stress before it starts messing with your heart, and here are some ways to help.
Stay positive. Laughter has been found to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries and even increase levels of good HDL cholesterol.
Meditate, a subject I've been talking about quite a bit lately. The practice of, meditation, inward, focused thought and deep-breathing have been shown to reduce heart disease factors such as high blood pressure.
Unplug. Hey, it's impossible to escape stress when it seems to follow you everywhere. But you can...cut the cord! That's right, avoid E-mails and TV news. Each day, even if it's for only 10-15 minutes, take a little time to "escape" from the world and be all by yourself. (This is the perfect time for your meditation, too.)
Find ways to take the edge off your stress. Simple things, like a warm, relaxing bath, listening to soft music or spending time on a favorite hobby, can give you a much-needed break from the day-day-day stress factors in your life. And finally...
Exercise! Every time you're physically active, your body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercise not only melts away stress, but protects against heart disease by helping to lower your blood pressure, strengthening your heart and helping you lose or maintain a healthy weight.
So get on out there, getting all the things you need to get done during these hectic holidays. But at the same time, try these simple techniques to help calm your nerves and ease the holiday stress. You'll be protecting your heart and, at the same time, getting through the holiday season a lot more...stress-free!