Hope everybody had a happy Valentine’s Day! (If not, go for a run. You’ll feel better.)
Today we’re continuing this month’s theme of heart health by talking about a sometimes less-than-straightforward issue: stress.
Stress is a tricky thing, particularly when it comes to your heart. Respectable doctors can disagree on what exactly is the relationship between stress and health. Does high stress lead directly to crummy health? Or does high stress simply lead to bad habits like eating too much or exercising too little — two things that can certainly start you down the road to feeling lousy?
Either way, one thing is clear. Controlling your stress levels is good for your health. Here are four no-pressure ways to do it, starting right away.
Eat right. Don’t worry, we’re not trying to get preachy about this one. Even if you don’t want to dissect what you eat, take a look at the how and the why. If you’re taking in a ton of calories in between meals or eating for reasons other than being hungry (bored, tired, stressed), you’re probably creating a dangerous relationship with your food. Break the cycle by getting back to basics: three square meals a day with minimal mindless snacking and overeating.
Evaluate what’s causing stress. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the day-to-day bustle that it’s easy to forget that we don’t have to accept every ball of stress that gets tossed our way. Remember, it’s okay to say “no” and it’s okay to scale back on the little things to focus on what’s really important. If something is causing you more aggravation than it’s worth, find a way to move on and leave it behind. Sometimes picking our battles is the key to staying sane.
Relax. We’ve talked about relaxation a little bit already this month. It’s so important to have something in our lives that we can turn to to unwind and decompress. Maybe running does the trick for you, but it might be something more low-key like knitting or playing music. Whatever it is, be willing to carve out time for yourself to indulge. You deserve it, and you’ll be better for it.
Rest. Why why why why do we always shortchange ourselves on this one!?! You have to draw the line somewhere. If you’re pushing your day deeper into the night and getting up early in the morning, you’re going to get run down. Maybe you’re a workaholic who needs to figure out how to strike that balance again. Or an internet junkie who needs to trade an hour of funny cat photos for an hour of sleep. Or a TV couch potato who needs to embrace the DVR and focus on a handful of shows that are really worth watching. Whatever is keeping you up at night, find away to get the Zs you need. Your body (and stress levels) will thank you.