A few years ago I came across the article below from the Hearth and Stroke Foundation about the negative effects of stress on heart health. While it’s all true, and the article has some helpful tips, it doesn’t get at what I have learned is the only sustainable way to handle life’s ups and downs.
What is that, you’re asking? A spiritual practice of some kind that you can draw upon when life gets hard will sustain you more than bubble baths and laughter. Your spiritual practice can be whatever nurtures your soul. It could be a meditative walk in nature; prayer; yoga or Tai Chi; iRest guided meditation or some other form of meditation. All of these practices build the capacity to handle life’s stressors with internal awareness rather than relying on an external activity that provides temporary peace. The ability to tap into that place of peace within you in both easy and difficult moments will be your long lasting sustainable way to handle the stressors that will inevitably come your way. My iRest practice has helped me to build the capacity to tap into that place of equanimity that’s always within me, but can be obscured by the stresses of life.
Here’s the article with some helpful tips that can be the place from which you can build a life changing spiritual practice that allows you to tap into your inner peace.
“Constant stress — whether from a traffic-choked daily commute, unhappy marriage, or heavy workload — can have real physical effects on the body. It has been linked to a wide range of health issues, including mood, sleep, and appetite problems — and yes, even heart disease.
Yet stress may influence heart disease in more subtle ways. Stress can also cause some people to act in ways that increase their risk for heart disease, through unhealthy behaviours. For example, when stressed, people often eat unhealthy food and don’t have the energy or time to exercise. Stress can also lead us into other heart-damaging behaviors, such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
Breaking the connection requires both learning to deal with stress and managing unhealthy habits. These five simple tips can help you do just that.
- Stay positive. Laughter has been found to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase “good” HDL cholesterol.
- This practice of inward-focused thought and deep breathing has been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. Meditation’s close relatives, yoga and prayer, can also relax the mind and body.
- Every time you are physically active, whether you take a walk or play tennis, your body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercising not only melts away stress, it also protects against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintain a healthy weight.
- It’s impossible to escape stress when it follows you everywhere. Cut the cord. Avoid emails and TV news. Take time each day — even if it’s for just 10 or 15 minutes — to escape from the world.
- Find ways to take the edge off your stress. Simple things, like a warm bath, listening to music, or spending time on a favorite hobby, can give you a much-needed break from the stressors in your life.”