Holistic Heart Disease Prevention
Healthy habits can protect you from the harmful effects of stress. Here are 10 positive healthy habits you may want to develop.
1. Talk with family and friends.
A daily dose of friendship is great medicine. Call or write to your friends and family to share your feelings, hopes, and joys.
2. Engage in daily physical activity.
Regular physical activity relieves mental and physical tension. Physically active adults have a lower risk of depression and loss of mental functioning. Physical activity can be a great source of pleasure, too. Try walking, swimming, biking or dancing every day.
3. Accept the things you cannot change.
Don’t say, “I’m too old.” You can still learn new things, work toward a goal, love and help others.
4. Remember to laugh.
Laughter makes you feel good. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud at a joke, a funny movie or a comic strip, even when you’re alone.
5. Give up the bad habits.
Too much alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine can increase stress. If you smoke, decide to quit now.
6. Slow down.
Try to “pace” instead of “race.” Plan ahead and allow enough time to get the most important things done.
7. Get enough sleep.
Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night. If you can’t sleep, take steps to help reduce stress and depression. Physical activity also may improve the quality of sleep.
8. Get organized.
Use “to do” lists to help you focus on your most important tasks. Approach big tasks one step at a time. For example, start by organizing just one part of your life — your car, desk, kitchen, closet, cupboard or drawer.
9. Practice giving back.
Volunteer your time or return a favor to a friend. Helping others helps you.
10. Try not to worry.
The world won’t end if your grass isn’t mowed or your kitchen isn’t cleaned. You may need to do these things, but today might not be the right time.
Here are four simple techniques for managing stress:
- Positive self-talk
- Emergency stress stoppers
- Finding pleasure
- Daily relaxation
Self-talk is one way to deal with stress. We all talk to ourselves; sometimes we talk out loud but usually, we keep self-talk in our heads. Self-talk can be positive (“I can do this” or “Things will work out”) or negative (“I’ll never get well” or “I’m so stupid”).
“I can’t do this.”
“Everything is going wrong.”
“I hate it when this happens.”
“I’ll do the best I can.”
“I can handle things if I take one step at a time.”
“I know how to deal with this; I’ve done it before.”
Negative self-talk increases stress. Positive self-talk helps you calm down and control stress. With practice, you can learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. For example: To help you feel better, practice positive self-talk every day — in the car, at your desk, before you go to bed or whenever you notice negative thoughts.
Having trouble getting started?
Try positive statements such as these:
- “I can get help if I need it.”
- “We can work it out.”
- “I won’t let this problem get me down.”
- “Things could be worse.”
- “I’m human, and we all make mistakes.”
- “Someday I’ll laugh about this.”
- “I can deal with this situation when I feel better.”
Remember: Positive self-talk helps you relieve stress and deal with the situations that cause you stress.
Emergency Stress Stoppers
There are many stressful situations — at work, at home, on the road, and in public places. We may feel stress because of poor communication, too much work and everyday hassles like standing in line. Emergency stress stoppers help you deal with stress on the spot.
Try these emergency stress stoppers. You may need different stress stoppers for different situations and sometimes it helps to combine them.
- Count to 10 before you speak
- Take three to five deep breaths
- Walk away from the stressful situation, and say you’ll handle it later
- Go for a walk
- Don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry” if you make a mistake
- Set your watch five to 10 minutes ahead to avoid the stress of being late
- Break down big problems into smaller parts. For example, answer one letter or phone call per day, instead of dealing with everything at once
- Drive in the slow lane or avoid busy roads to help you stay calm while driving
- Smell a rose, hug a loved one or smile at your neighbor
When stress makes you feel bad, do something that makes you feel good. Doing things you enjoy is a natural way to fight off stress. You don’t have to do a lot to find pleasure. Even if you’re ill or down, you can find pleasure in simple things such as going for a drive, chatting with a friend or reading a good book. Try to do at least one thing every day that you enjoy, even if you only do it for 15 minutes.
- Start an art project (oil paint, sketch, create a scrapbook or finger paint with grandchildren)
- Take up a hobby, new or old
- Read a favorite book, short story, magazine or newspaper
- Have coffee or a meal with friends
- Play golf, tennis, ping-pong or bowl
- Sew, knit or crochet
- Listen to music during or after you practice relaxation
- Take a nature walk — listen to the birds, identify trees and flowers
- Make a list of everything you still want to do in life
- Watch an old movie on TV or rent a video
- Take a class at your local college
- Play cards or board games with family and friends
Relaxation is more than sitting in your favorite chair watching TV. To relieve stress, relaxation should calm the tension in your mind and body. Some good forms of relaxation are yoga, tai chi (a series of slow, graceful movements) and meditation. Like most skills, relaxation takes practice. Many people join a class to learn and practice relaxation skills.
Deep breathing is a form of relaxation you can learn and practice at home using the following steps. It’s a good skill to practice as you start or end your day. With daily practice, you will soon be able to use this skill whenever you feel stress.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap or lie down. Close your eyes.
- Picture yourself in a peaceful place. Perhaps you’re lying on the beach, walking in the mountains or floating in the clouds. Hold this scene in your mind.
- Inhale and exhale. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply.
- Continue to breathe slowly for 10 minutes or more.
- Try to take at least five to 10 minutes every day for deep breathing or another form of relaxation.