Work and Home Life Stressing You Out? Here's How to CopeBy Ram Wadehra, DO, FACC, Cardiologist - Virtua Cardiology
Every job has its own kind of stress. There could be short deadlines, endless paperwork, or the occasional angry customer. Or there may be meetings that drag on for hours, putting everyone even more behind. Or you may be trying to juggle your kids’ activities while caring for an aging parent.
All can cause stress—and raise your risk for health problems.
But it’s not just the job that creates stress. It’s how we respond to life’s pressures and demands that determines the effect it will have on our health.
How Stress Affects Your BodyWhen you’re stressed, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Your heart beats more rapidly, your blood vessels narrow—increasing your blood pressure—and your blood sugar rises.
After the stress subsides, your blood pressure and heart rate should as well. But if you’re in a chronic emotional state, your body doesn’t have a chance to recover.
In the short-term, chronic stress can give you headaches and an upset stomach. You may have trouble sleeping, which can leave you grouchy, inpatient, unable to focus on the task at hand, and depressed.
Long-term, the damage the high blood pressure does to your arteries raises your risk for a heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.
Some people who are constantly stressed try to plow through it by smoking, overeating, or drinking too much alcohol. Instead of helping, these unhealthy habits can backfire and end up hurting your heart.
Tame Your Stress
No matter your occupation or job location, there are steps you can take to manage your stress.
- Manage your time. Make a daily list of tasks you must do, those you would like to do, and what can wait. Build in time for interruptions.
- Take breaks. Step away regularly to stretch, clear your head, and eat.
- Be realistic. Stop promising to do more than you can handle.
- Exercise. Thirty minutes a day of aerobic activity will lower your stress and boost your mood, not to mention help manage your weight and lower your blood pressure.
- Eat healthy meals. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. Try to steer clear of caffeine, alcohol, and snacks laden with saturated fats and added sugars.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Seven to eight hours a night well help keep you refreshed.
- Have a sense of humor. Laughing reduces stress levels significantly.
- Get help. If you’ve tried self-help methods but are still highly stress, talk with a mental health professional.
Stress is part of life. By learning how to manage it, we can lead a longer, healthier life.
Boost Your Heart HealthVirtua’s team of more than 100 cardiac experts provides comprehensive care, from medical cardiology to interventional procedures to advanced cardiac surgery. Appointments are available within 48 hours. Schedule an appointment with a Virtua cardiologist now.
Updated January 14, 2022