By

Sarah Sutton, MS, CHWC, CPT

| 03/16/2016

5 Quick Ways to Reduce Stress for a Healthier Heart with Sarah Sutton

5 Quick Ways to Reduce Stress for a Healthier Heart with Sarah Sutton

We live in a stressed-out world. Jobs, families, money and life events cause stress, which can seriously stress out your heart as well. Physically, stress can affect your blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which contribute to heart disease. On the intangible side, negative stress hits your quality of life, colors your mindset towards the negative, and can further the physical damage (think stress eating and skipping workouts).

Thankfully, there are numerous ways to control your stress and lessen the damage you do to your heart. Stress is part physical and part mental – you may notice that your heart beats more quickly when you are stressed. Physical feedback helps relieve mental stress and vice versa. The classic, long-term stress relievers that work to combat physical and mental stress are physical activity, yoga, and meditation.

If you are short on time and need a quick way to de-stress between meetings or in your car, try these 5 two-minute stress relievers:

1. Deep breathing

Deep breathing slows your heart rate. When you focus on your exhale, the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered, causing relaxation. For effective deep breathing, you can breathe in for a count of two and out for a count of four, or focus on deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Do either method for two straight minutes.

2. Progressive relaxation

Progressive relaxation does double duty by physically releasing anxiety and forcing you to concentrate on something other than your stressor. Progressively relax by purposely tensing an area of your body and then deliberately relaxing it.

3. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness means “being in the moment,” and if you’re in the moment, you can’t focus on your stressors. An easy way to de-stress with mindfulness is to download a mindfulness clock from mindfulnessdc.org. Set the clock to a random time or once an hour, and when it chimes, stop and take three deep breaths.

4. Sensory walks

Engage your senses and harness the relaxing power of nature by going outside and focusing first on what you’re seeing, then on what you’re hearing, then on what you’re smelling, etc. Go through all five senses before you stop. You don’t have to take an hour-long walk, but the longer you can spend on it, the better.

5. Practice self-awareness

Stress is mostly self-induced and is the result of how you think about things. When you are feeling stressed, take a moment to become aware of your thoughts. You’ll start to notice patterns and key words that trigger anxiety. Once you’ve identified these thoughts, you can snap out of them by thinking of gratitude or appreciation.

Any decrease in stress will help your mental and physical well-being. None of these techniques is a magic bullet, but done regularly they can have a big impact on your well-being. Try one of these stress-relieving techniques the next time you’re anxious, and see how much of a difference you can make in your quality of life. Good luck!

About Sarah Sutton, MS, CHWC, CPT

Sarah Sutton is certified as a professional coach specializing in healthy weight and wellness transformations. She received her master’s degree in exercise science from The George Washington University and a Wellcoaches health and wellness coach certification in 2005. She is also an Advancing Ministries certified Scripture-based transformational coach and an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer. Wellness Coaching can particularly help patients with the following concerns: Weight Management, Stress Management, Lifestyle Changes (Physical Activity & Healthy Eating), Work/Life Balance, Spirituality, Creativity & Other Important Areas that Nurture Fulfillment of the Complete Person.

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