One aspect of heart health is lowering stress. Stress can not only increase blood pressure in the short term, but it can also increase the chances of having cardiovascular disease (CVD). To prevent stress from affecting your heart health, self-care is an important method to lower your stress. My top 3 self care recommendations are journaling, meditation and proper sleep.
Journaling especially when paired with gratitude, can be a powerful way to reduce stress. Journaling lowers stress in a couple ways as it puts present moment events into prospective and often through the act of journaling you can brainstorm solutions that you might not have otherwise thought of. This act of brainstorming solutions will develop a mental flexibility and positive mindset that can dampen the effect of future stress. There are many ways to journal and some may fit into daily habit better than others. I know that I prefer to write in a note book the thoughts, events and emotions that have arisen throughout the day, but there is lots to be said about even just writing three things that you are grateful for each day.
Meditation is one of my more regular habits. As a regular habit, meditation is truly a powerful way of re-centering your mind. By reconnecting with the present moment, the future can seem less daunting and can ease the wounds of the past. There are many different types of meditations you can do like visualizations, breathing based, or mantra based. There are many apps and YouTube videos that will guide you through the many different types of meditations. I personally use Head Space which is an app that has guided breathing based meditations. Breathing based meditations have you feel into your body, feeling how each breath feels and focusing on the steady rhythm of the breath. The goal with most meditation styles is not to aim for a perfectly quiet mind but to be aware of the present moment. To feel how you feel in that moment and to watch what thoughts come up. Its not to judge the thoughts or ponder their meaning but to notice them and then to let them pass. This fluid mindset that is built in your meditation practice is what will allow you to better deal with future stressors in a manner that is calm and measured, rather than chaotic and overwhelming.
Finally, sleep! Something I myself struggle with as a self-proclaimed “night owl”, living in an “early bird” world. Yet it is incredibly important for mental and physical recovery. This includes recovery from the stress of the previous day. Ideally, adults should be getting between 7-9 hours each night, this lessens as you age and is higher in their teenage years. To improve sleep looking to set up your bedroom so that they are as few electronics (especially cell phones, computers, and tablets) in the room, these are distracting you from getting a good night sleep and the blue light the they produce can reduce the sleep hormones which will prevent deep quality sleep. But almost more importantly is to set up a consistent bed time and wake up time. Having a regular sleep clock can improve daytime energy.
By adding these selfcare practices to your day, you may just be able to protect yourself from cardiovascular disease and promote heart health. So, I encourage you to play with the stress relief self-care practices that work best for you and what style of each you prefer to use. Let me know in the comments below what your favorite self-care practice is.