Visualise a rubber band. Now try to pull it, what happens, it changes its shape, as you continue to pull it apart there will be a point when it will break unless you reduce the pressure or add few more rubber bands to the original.
Can you relate it to our life?
We encounter stress in everyday life situation like (perceived or real) annoying boss, spouse, a family situation, colleagues, traffic [science calls it as ‘chronic stress’] or
One may experience immensely challenging situation like sudden loss of a job or parents experiencing a loss of their child [Acute stress].
Both types of stress have significant physiological side effects. However, an acute stress is researched to create severe adverse reaction like may be even a heart attack! Such event, Dr. Deepak Bhatt, director of the Integrated Interventional Cardiovascular Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says are termed as “broken heart syndrome,” and it is much more common in women—even in those with no history of heart disease.
After stressful event body tries to cope for sometime until all its reserves are depleted (remember rubber band).
So what does stress do to your body?
- Stress can interfere with sleep, appetite.
- When you perceive a situation to be stressful your body releases hormone cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline), which prepare your body for flight or fight response.
- In turn, these hormones releases more sugar and fat.
- Over period of time your immunity is affected.
- Your body starts the inflammatory process.
Gradually with continuous stress your body shifts from ease to diseases of various kind, insomnia, depression, digestive problem, diabetes and of course heart diseases. In spite of you eating healthily and exercising regularly.
Therefore, I believe Stress identification and management must be an integral part of a good quality healthy heart and healthy lifestyle programme.
So do you want to turn your stress around and help your heart in the process?
Going back to our rubber band example, to stop it breaking we either reduced the pressure or added more bands; in real life we either reduce or go away from stressful situation (not always practical) or add more skills to be able to better adapt to the situations.
These are 5 skills you can add to create a change
- ‘What if’ – STOP – Replace: Often stress occurs due to fear or anxiety of unknown. For example in a situation of getting late for work or interview, one may try to predict future, what if, I will loose my job or a client, Then how I will feed myself and family and so on. But the truth is only in rare cases this may happen.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) principles are useful in alleviating some of this fears/ anxiety which leads to stress.
Instead of predicting mentally force yourself to STOP that thinking and ‘Replace’ it with something less catastrophic like:
- it is not a usual occurring,
- what if I explain to my boss and he understands that I was late truly because of broken down car,
- people are nice and understanding,
- In extreme cases, what if I loose job; I still have my skills I can easily find another job or client.
- Set goals and priorities:
Create the actionable goals which aims to work on your weakness, the ones which leads you to stressful situation. For example, if not finding your keys or mobile phone in the morning causes you stress may be you can work on your organizational skills .
3.Develop Positive Outlook: Research shows that even after heart disease people with positive attitude are less likely to die than those who are more negative.
Replace self-critical statement like
I’m so disorganised” & “I can’t cope” to,
The two things I can get done today are……..” or
“Well done me – I made it happen.
4.Laugh more: Laughter therapy has been a famous trend which helps people with low mood and other ailment. Rightly so, because laughter reduces stress hormones and inflammatory process.
Watch comedy movies, spend time with kids or nature or that friend whose company always put smile on your face.
- Relaxation: Don’t try to be superhuman all the time, seriously! It is OK to ask for help from your friends and family! It is OK to unplug from the external responsibilities and practice some self-love which in turn will help you cope to life’s demand better. You can choose from various tools like:
- Taking a short break every 3 months or so.
- Walk in nature; country park, seashore, river, canal.
- Practice yogic breathing.
- By participating in exercises like walking, jogging, yoga, tai-chi, body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins
- Pamper yourself with massage and spa treatment.
- Ask : Ask for help!
- And so on…please write your own ideas which helps you to unplug!
Stress Management is an important component of Vitality Healthy Lifestyle programme. If you are experiencing any stressful situation and want guidance please contact Vitality Health Clinic on 07859074237 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Until we meet in person,
Live well, live with Vitality and remember ‘Prevention IS better than cure’.
Vitality Health Clinic
- Beverley Bostocock-Cox, MSc RGN, Clinical lecture Imperial College London, 2012.
- Harvard Health Publication, 2015. http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/5-ways-to-de-stress-and-help-your-heart