Heart Disease and Stress
How Can I Cope With Stress?
After you've identified the cause of stress in your life, the next step is to learn techniques that can help you cope. There are many techniques you can use to manage stress. Some of which you can learn yourself, while other techniques may require the guidance of a trained therapist.
Some common techniques for coping with stress include:
- Eat and drink sensibly. Abusing alcohol and food may seem to reduce stress, but it actually adds to it.
- Assert yourself. You do not have to meet others' expectations or demands. It's OK to say "no." Remember, being assertive allows you to stand up for your rights and beliefs while respecting those of others.
- Stop smoking. Aside from the obvious health risks of cigarettes, nicotine acts as a stimulant and brings on more stress symptoms.
- Exercise regularly. Choose non-competitive exercise and set reasonable goals. Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.)
- Relax every day. Choose from a variety of different techniques (see below).
- Take responsibility. Control what you can and leave behind what you cannot control.
- Reduce causes of stress. Many people find life is filled with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. Effective time-management skills involve asking for help when appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and taking time out for yourself.
- Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is.
- Set realistic goals and expectations. It's OK, and healthy, to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything all at once.
- Sell yourself to yourself. When you are feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.
- Get enough rest. Even with proper diet and exercise, you can't fight stress effectively without rest. You need time to recover from exercise and stressful events. The time you spend resting should be long enough to relax your mind as well as your body. Some people find that taking a nap in the middle of the day helps them reduce stress.
How Can I Keep a Positive Attitude?
A positive attitude and self-esteem are good defenses against stress and heart disease because they help you view stress as a challenge rather than a problem. A positive attitude keeps you in control when there are inevitable changes in your life. A positive attitude means telling yourself there are things you can do to improve certain situations and admitting that sometimes there's nothing you can do. To maintain a positive attitude during a stressful situation (or to prepare yourself for a potentially stressful situation), keep these tips in mind:
- Stay calm. Stop what you're doing. Breathe deeply. Reflect on your choices.
- Always tell yourself you can get through the situation.
- Try to be objective, realistic, and flexible.
- Try to keep the situation in perspective. Think about the possible solutions. Choose one that is the most acceptable and feasible.
- Think about the outcome: Ask yourself, what is the worst possible thing that can happen? (Chances are that won't happen)
- Tell yourself that you can learn something from every situation.