February is American Heart Month and at the Institute for Podiatric Excellence and Development (IPED), we think it’s a good time to remind our members about the importance of managing stress to reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. When you’re under stress your body reacts by releasing adrenaline which causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to go up. When you are under stress more or less constantly, these changes in your body can cause damage to the walls of your arteries and lead to heart disease. In addition, stress can cause anxiety, depression, weight gain, loss of sleep and actual physical pains.
Below are some ways to deal with stress so that you can be at your best in your practice and your personal life.
- Work it Out—regular physical activity helps rid your body of mental and physical tension. Exercise releases endorphins which improves your sense of wellbeing, elevates your mental function and lowers the risk of depression. Carve out time for some form of cardio activity at least 5 days a week.
- Take 5—Actually, 15—minutes that is for some form of relaxation at least once a day. Meditation, tai chi, yoga or listening to your favorite music while you take a brisk walk are all good options. Your goal is any activity that clears your head and gives you a time out from the thoughts swirling around in your head.
- Avoid Self-medicating—alcohol, smoking and caffeine may seem like stress relievers but in the long run these habit-forming vices can actually increase your stress levels. Phone a friend, exercise, volunteer or find other healthy options for taking your mind off your problems.
- Don’t Go It Alone—if these tips don’t help you get stress under control, seek out professional help. Stress management classes and/or counseling can be the answer to making permanent changes for a healthier life.