As is tradition, February is National Heart Month. We all know that stress can have a negative impact on our lives. Stress can also affect our hearts—emotionally and physically. In this month’s article, I’ll be revisiting a past article to share some information from the American Heart Association about how to minimize the effects of stress.
We all talk to ourselves. Sometimes out loud, but usually to ourselves. The things we say have an impact on our mood and our stress level. Instead of “I can’t do this,” say to yourself “I’ll do the best I can”. In doing so, you calm yourself and decrease your stress level. Thoughts like “everything is going wrong” could turn into “I can handle things one step at a time.” Though not on the website, another great option is to use Bible verses to encourage ourselves. Philippians 4:13 is one of my favorites, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” God’s Word is always available to offer encouragement and reduce the stresses of life with these little sayings that can start in Heart Month and can carry through the year, like delayed resolutions.
When stress does happen in life, there are things that can be done to help reduce it and get you through the situation. Count to ten before speaking, take three to five deep breaths, there are a number of things we can do to diffuse a stressful situation. When there is time and no urgency to act, breaking down big problems into smaller ones can reduce the stress we face and make the work more manageable. Prayer was also mentioned as a stress stopper. By praying Scripture or simply talking to God about what is going on, we can reduce the stress we’re facing. A great new resource is Max Lucado’s latest book, “Anxious For Nothing.” In it, he offers encouragement to stay CALM: Celebrate God’s goodness; Ask God for help; Leave your concerns with Him; and Meditate on the good things.
At those times when stress does hit us, another option is to do something pleasurable to relieve the stress. No, a six pack of anything in the evening is not an acceptable stress relieving activity, it’s National Heart Month people! Talking or texting a friend can be a place to start. Meeting for coffee or a meal can further relieve the stress. Something as simple as a drive or a walk can allow you to get your mind off of the stressful event. In college, when the stress level increased, I would take my ’65 Chevy pickup out Loop 360 in Austin and just drive. Back then the traffic was much lighter and cruising was still possible. A little fresh air did wonders for my mood.
Closing National Heart Month, the website recommends doing some activity daily to reduce stress and relax. Again, a six pack or two of anything or a plate or two of anything are not acceptable forms of relaxation. Good forms of relaxation include regular exercise, yoga or prayer. Learning a new hobby or skill can also be relaxing. Something as simple as deep, relaxing breathing done regularly can help reduce stress in our lives. And, this reduces the stress on our hearts and that is always a good thing.
Michael Dominguez, MD, FAAFP is board certified in Family Medicine.
His office is located at HealthTexas Medical Group, 590 N. General McMullen, 78228, phone: 210-249-0212.