Heart disease is one of the biggest health concerns we will face in our lifetime. In 2021, one in five deaths in America were the result of heart disease. It also presents an especially difficult problem because it often develops without any visible symptoms, making it more challenging to detect and diagnose.
As always, one of best steps we can take to protect ourselves is preventive care. Exercising regularly, eating healthy and receiving regular check-ups are all beneficial measures you can adopt. Another major way you can protect your heart is through stress management.
Stress is something we all encounter, and it’s something we all deal with differently. Our bodies handle stress in a way that’s meant to protect us, but chronic stress and your body’s subsequent response can quickly become harmful. Cortisol, a hormone, is released in response to stress, and studies suggest that high levels of it can increase your blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and blood pressure, all of which are common heart disease risk factors.
With stress being such an ever-present part of the human experience, how can we begin to actually chip away at the negative effects it has on our bodies and minds? Try out the following grounding tips and techniques to find new ways to be more present and mindful in all the moments of your life, both good and bad.
- Truly savor a snack. Stress might sometimes lead us to turn toward junk food or overindulgence, but a more positive strategy is to slowly take small bites or sips of a food or drink you enjoy, allowing yourself to really taste and enjoy each bite.
- Move your body. It really doesn’t matter how you’re moving. Whether it’s jumping rope, targeted stretching or an impromptu dance party to your favorite song, the act of physical exercise can do a world of good for your mind and body, releasing feel-good endorphins and helping you focus on one specific task. Make sure to really pay attention to how your body feels with each movement.
- Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method. As one of the most popular and accessible mindfulness strategies, the 5-4-3-2-1 method can be done almost anywhere at any time. Simply use your five senses to ground you in the present moment. First, name 5 things you can see. Then: 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
- Use affirmations. Simple, positive, gentle reminders like, “I am safe,” “This too shall pass,” or “Fear is just a feeling,” can help calm you down in a time of need, but can do even more good over time if you get in the habit of repeating them regularly so that you’re used to hearing them.
- Distract yourself. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but try to put all your energy and thought into one activity, like reading a book, playing a memory game, or playing an album you’ve never heard before and really listening to the words. Then you can approach the problem again, hopefully this time with a clearer head and a more positive mindset.
- Plan. When things are out of our control, we often feel immense anxiety and dread. Place yourself back in the moment and address what you can control by planning a fun outing or your meals and schedule for the week.
Grounding yourself can be a difficult process, and what helps relieve stress for one of us likely might not work for the other. Give yourself the chance to try out new strategies, to learn from your mistakes and to truly find what works for you.
“Heart Disease Facts.” cdc.gov, May 15, 2023.