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Assess Your Stress To Help Your Heart June 1, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom? ~ Kahlil Gibran

Stress is the way our body reacts to change. This week, we are talking about emotional stress because it is something within our control, whereas physical stressors aren’t always. Our bodies are designed to adapt to stress but sometimes the way we react to that stress creates more of it. We have the power to choose our perceptions of and responses to any occurrence.

How does stress affect the heart?

Inflamed reactions and worry have more than just a passing physiological affect on the body. The instinctive “fight-or-flight” response increases the heart rate and blood pressure. Blood flow is re-directed to the muscular system releasing fats into the bloodstream to be used as energy, speeds breathing or makes it more difficult, and increases cortisol and triglyceride levels. Continued stress can lead to an abnormal heart rhythm, elevate your risk for heart disease, and cause a stroke or heart attack.

Your physical and mental well-being are worth getting control of emotional stress and anger. Stress is a normal part of life and dealing with it effectively decreases the risk of suffering from heart ailments.

5 Calm Coping Actions

An enlightened soul radiates love and light. And I mean radiates. This can be you! Here are five methods you can adopt to control your responses to emotional stress and do a little soul-searching.

1) Starting today, you have a clean slate! Give yourself permission to start anew and let go of what is weighing you down. Create your own moral code of conduct independent of religious virtues, which can occupy another space in your life. This tip is an exercise on living morally in this life so you are able to attain your maximum potential. Too worried to let go? That’s ok, move on to step 2.

2) “Seventy-five percent to ninety percent of all primary care visits are stress-related” (HealthMath). Knowledge is the first step to solving any problem. Identifying your particular stressors will enable you to tune in to methods of coping with them specifically. A good place to start is with this free, simple assessment tool from HealthMath. The tool measures perceived stress and reactions to life situations. Intrinsic and extrinsic variables are measured, and analysis is based on responses. Identification of stressors can help us tune in to our reactions, reign in the drama or the feeling of being overwhelmed, and develop new coping abilities. Helpful tips are based on your score.

3) Take care of business. Like my first car salesman told me, “You’re not gonna do it (make the loan payment every month) unless you have to.” This extends to all areas of life. Staying on top of chores, bills and other duties or commitments leaves you feeling responsible and self-sufficient, and frees up time to pursue other interests, including step 4.

4) Spend uninterrupted time on personal reflection. You may have to complete this step many times before you make any notable progress. Try journal-writing, free-association writing, meditation or prayer, or taking long walks by yourself for the sole purpose of soul-searching. If you can’t seem to find the time, schedule it on your calendar. Use this time to shut out external “noise” and self-talk, remain in a calm state, and open your mind to all possibilities. Allow your inner voice/the light within you/your true spirit to guide you in defining your purpose in life. This does not include all the “should do’s,” but ideas that enable your inner light to shine through you and outward to touch other people in a positive way. Where do your talents lie? About what are you passionate? What is unique about you? What feeds your soul and makes your spirit soar? The answers are already within you. When you finally find them, make a written plan addressing how you can incorporate them into action every day.

5) Respond to anxiety, rather than react to it. Choose what you will say or do to keep the situation in perspective. Avoid shouting or swearing as this increases tension and induces stress within the other people around you. Face your stressor(s) head on and do not settle on a compromise unless it leaves you feeling joyful.

Your heart health depends on your ability to manage stress. Managing stress is completely within your control. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” For heart’s sake, is it time to make a healthy change?

Related Reading

Infographic: Love Helps: How Relationships and Marriage Effect Health, Happiness and Finance

Journal of the American Medical Association, Chronic Stress and the Heart

The American Institute of Stress

Good Grief May 14, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Love shines upon us

As much as we like to think it won’t happen to us, or decide not to dwell on what “could be,” try to live in and appreciate the present, at some point grief slams into us harder than any body blow. It’s a personal catastrophe that takes our breath away – for months or years. It rearranges our reality and we are alone. Each one of us must process this reality. The guidance of family, friends, therapists, religious mentors or self-help books reaches part of us, but we must do the work on our own. We must come to terms with the event and find a new route on our roadmap. A route we had not previously considered or ever wished to be on, could never have conceived of previously and leaving us blatantly unprepared. We must teach ourselves how get to somewhere that is not here. To pull ourselves out of despair.

Grief, of course, need not result from of a death. It may follow the end of any significant relationship or change in a major life circumstance. Divorce, chronic or terminal illness, infertility and miscarriage, job loss, or loss of freedom may lead you into the stages of grief.

What effect does this have on our own mortality? Does the stress of devastation and long-term panic increase our susceptibility to disease thereby shortening our lives? Are we consumed by our reality and our search for the new route to the extent that those who depend on us suffer? Do we try to be strong for our dependents while inside we continue to crumble? Do we even care about the future of the new route upon which we find ourselves? Would a hug help? I don’t know. Probably. I’m sure it depends on perceived realities, personal circumstances, coping ability, dependence on piety, previous experience, quality of relationships and mindset – different for us all.

What I do know for us collectively, is that it sucks and it’s a long haul. Even your loved ones do not share your exact perceptions, experiences and depth of devastation. And try as they might, bless ’em, even if they are similarly suffering, they are limited in their ability to feel what is like to be you, and you cannot fathom what they are going through. Perhaps you cannot even discuss it.

The only goodness in all of it is that you have a choice. You look at the values, attitudes, manner of your departed and, when you are able, embody those beautiful aspects of them in order for them to have continued life through you. I’m certainly not to that point yet, but at least I have a goal and that gives me something to work on and look forward to. It’s an unrealistic goal, and I know it, but that is okay. I may enjoy the journey in the meantime and achieve more than I would have otherwise.

Maybe there’s something in that person that you’d like to illuminate. I hope you find it and shine it all over the place.

* * *

I wrote this one year ago. Now it has been two years since my mother left this earth. I have re-read this from time to time to update it, but I still feel the same way. My mother remains in my thoughts throughout every day, and the goal remains.

Further Reading:

The Grief Recovery Institute

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