Self-Management to Deal With Stress and Aid a Healthy Heart
According to the American Heart Association, though the cause(s) of heart disease can vary from person-to-person, the disease itself is the leading cause of death in Americans. More research is needed to determine the direct correlation of stress on heart disease. However, studies have found that stress can affect habits and factors that can contribute to the condition such as smoking, inactivity, overeating, sodium intake, alcohol consumption, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Everyone feels and responds to stress differently. You may be a working mom who is feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by the million responsibilities you have to juggle at any given time, a company executive who is about to have an anxiety attack if you have to make another quick, weighty decision, or someone somewhere in between. You may have a totally different response to the stress you endure personally. Interestingly enough, in my years of practice as a certified clinical and corporate health and wellness coach, I have found one common thread among high achievers that manage their stress well and maintain a healthy heart-self management skills.
Self-management is not time management, goal setting or even excellent organizational skills. Though an individual with superb self-management skills likely does these things, it is instead the ability to understand and process emotions and decrease stress by being able to productively respond and adapt rather than react to any given stressful event or situation.
There is no right or wrong step-by-step process that can aid in developing appropriate self management skills to reduce stress but there FOUR noticeable stages that I have observed in these people that might help you too!
1. Identify what circumstances and events breed stress in your life.
This could be work deadlines, confrontation with your spouse or children, paying bills, having to rush to get ready in the mornings, giving a speech at work, etc.
2. Begin to observe and notice how you carry and respond to your stress.
This could be tension in your shoulder, smoking, a headache, anger, heaviness in your chest, avoidance, resentment, overeating,etc.
3. Figure out what habits and behaviors help you manage your stress.
This could be meditation, exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, taking a break from work, practicing breathing techniques for calming, etc.
4. Mindfully and proactively respond and adapt when you notice your stress coming on.
This could be that you have a major work deadline coming up this week, and you are noticing tension and pain in your jaw and a headache. So as soon as you notice yourself clenching your jaw you get up from your desk, go for a walk outside the office for ten minutes as you breathe and come back anew. Success! You just managed yourself!
So in summary: “don’t let it control you; you control it.”
– CASEY EDMONDS, CHC
Health Advisor | Email Casey