Relax, Max! How to Keep Stress From Breaking Your Heart

Must Reads, Relaxation, Stress

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Everyday Health recently ran a great article on Heart Health: Preventing Heart Disease. There was, of course, the “expected” (yet golden) advice:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat more fiber
  • Get at least 10,000 steps in daily
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise 6 days a week
  • Have a great night’s sleep

As someone utterly fascinated with the mind-body connection and someone who firmly believes that the two influence one another greater than we’ll ever truly realize, I wasn’t terribly surprised to find the following advice:  Relax!

Stephen Sinatra, MD, a cardiologist and assistant clinical professor at the University of Connecticut had this to say in Everyday Health’s article, “People who see the world optimistically — who see the cup as half-full — [typically] do not get heart disease, as opposed to people who are more pessimistic, who worry all the time, who live in fear — these are the people who have hormonal responses that lead to heart disease.”

If that doesn’t spell it out, I don’t think it can be spelled.

Finding ways to relax and unwind aren’t just necessary for our emotional and mental well-being, health, and happiness – they’re pivotal to our physical health as well.  Our heart doesn’t want any more stress or upheavals in our lives any more than our brains do!

People who tend to stress and mentally grind about things know who they are. Truth be told, they want very much to relax but often don’t know where to start.  There isn’t a deep, mysterious secret to learning how to relax. On the other hand, it isn’t as easy as opening a can of Diet Coke either.  Those of us who were born in a sort of zen state and have never seen any reason to leave it tend to forget that sometimes.  We’re like, “Relax, man, just relax.”

Easier said by some than done by others.  We’re all wired differently, after all.  What’s more, isn’t it a good thing we are?!  I can’t imagine a world filled with zen-bots any more than I can imagine a world filled with stress-n-steins. Either arrangement would make me want to hide in the attic.

When all’s said and done, however, those who tend to stress out, worry, fret, and get their drawers twisted on a regular basis MUST find a way to deal with life differently – otherwise, it’ll deal with them in a completely unacceptable way.  To the tune of heart disease.

Below are a few steps to consider if you’re one of the many, many, many people who are looking for more relaxation.

  1. Remind yourself, as often as needed, that this is life and unexpected things are going to happen. Disappointments, broken appliances, flat tires, arguments, rude co-workers, bad colds, burned meatloaf – and so on – are going to happen.   I’ve never understood why people flip their lids over things that can be fixed.  Save the lid flipping for those things that can’t.  I remember one particularly fun month when my vehicle, our oldest daughter’s vehicle, and our middle daughter’s vehicle ALL needed trips to the mechanic.  My husband never batted an eye.  I thought, “Wow. He’s handling this all amazingly well…”  Then I overheard him telling one of our girls, in a matter-of-fact way:  “It can be fixed.  Not a big deal.”  A perfect lesson:  If something can be fixed, why stress?  Save that for things that can’t be fixed, replaced, or done without.
  2. Don’t expect life to be fair. No one ever said it would be.  Sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people.  Sometimes your college professor will be wrong and you’ll be right – you’ll know it the whole time you’re staring at the B- on your paper.   Sometimes you’ll try a new exotic recipe that you’re excited about and your spouse won’t even take a second bite!  That’s life and no one said it’d be fair.  You aren’t in it alone – and life isn’t singling you out.  No pity parties allowed.
  3. You know the old saying that starts out, “All work and no play…”  The 2010 version would be, “All work and no play invites stress over to stay.” If your mind is on work and/or making money for the majority of your waking hours, you need to reevaluate.  There’s more to life than money and work!  Take time and make time for enjoyment.  Sit down and watch an NBA or MLB game.  I’m a huge baseball fan and can think of few things more relaxing than kicking back on the couch with a snack and watching a baseball game.  I’m there – body, mind, and soul – from the first pitch to the last.   For those few hours, nothing needs to be done or taken care of…. except maybe a few appeals to the umpire regarding his inconsistent strike zone.  Have a wide one or have a narrow one – just be consistent.  No accordion strike zones when my Cardinals are playing, thank you very much.  As a sidebar, following sports can be a great mental workout – keeping up with names, numbers, teams, managers, averages, wins, losses, divisions, and so forth, is a fun way to stay mentally active and a great way to challenge yourself.  A few days  ago, I grabbed pen and paper to see if I could name all of the National League teams and all of the American League teams.  I did really, really well – I just put the Marlins in the wrong league and totally forgot about the Lions.  Sorry, Detroit.
  4. Take up Birdwatching. Seriously.  Grab a few bird feeders, a bird bath, and even a house or two.  Fill the feeders with seed and the bird bath with fresh, clean water.  If your completely into it like we are, you could even plant a flower bed nearby to make your feathered friends Garden of Eden even lovelier.  I promise you, when you watch these peaceful, feisty little feathered beauties, your stress level will hit rock bottom and your relaxation level will soar.  If you tend to stress and being tightly wound has become a way of life for you, I’m literally begging you to take up birdwatching.  You’ll feel better instantly. Call it your feathered tonic.
  5. Watch the Food Network. This is another great way to unwind and relax. When you come in from work, turn on the Food Network and chill.  Few things are more peaceful than sitting back and watching a cooking show.  Pick a few favorites and watch them regularly.
  6. Enjoy your favorite hobbies and create new ones. Some of my favorite hobbies are cooking, walking, gardening, birdwatching, reading, watching movies & sports, and learning new things.  Learning new things seems like an odd hobby, but I simply LOVE to research and learn about history, new places, animals, nutrition, and so on.  I also want to get back into crafts.  I used to sew, make pillows, and once started to take up quilting.  I would love very much to get back in touch with my creative and crafty side.  I also want to get back into cake decorating.  I used to make some real works of art (such as doll cakes when our girls were smaller – of course, they’d still love them muchly!)  If there are any hobbies or interests that peak your interest, head off to the craft section at your favorite department store – or a Hobby Lobby if you have one of those amazing stores – and have at it!
  7. If you enjoy golf, tennis, softball, or bowling – go for it. Also, if there’s one of these sports you’d like to learn – why not start this month?  The beautiful thing about sports is that you’re multi-tasking in a wonderfully healthy way – you’re relieving stress, unwinding, getting fresh air, AND getting heart-healthy exercise.  I’ll feel a little guilty while you’re outside doing all of that and I’m inside watching baseball, sewing, and planning my next extraordinary cake.  A little guilty… happy, but a little guilty.
  8. Take up yoga.  Whether you’re male or female, 10 or 70 – yoga is amazingly relaxing.  After 30 minutes of yoga, you feel almost like you’ve gotten a full body massage.  Now tell me that wouldn’t feel sensational!
  9. Take a walk. Very often, a nice 10 minute walk is all that’s needed to unwind and relax.  If 10 minutes doesn’t do the trick, keep going!
  10. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. A lack of sleep (even if you shortchange yourself an hour or two) can make even the most relaxed, even-tempered person in the world a crank and a bundle of nerves.

If you do just one thing today (and it’s Wednesday, so we all know 1 is actually a reasonable number) – make it this:  Make up your mind to make your health and happiness a priority.  Your heart’s health should be one of the most important things to you.  It determines whether you live or not!  I can’t see something being any more important than that.  Find ways to relax and unwind and do so on a regular basis.  You HAVE to include some time in your day (each and every day) for total, complete relaxation.

Now off to to the store with you – the birdseed (and a more relaxed future)  is waiting.

Make each relaxing moment count double,
~ Joi

By the way… have you met my new favorite word yet? – Gambaru! Click the link and prepare to fall in love with the word as much as I have.

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2 comments… add one
  • Nice tips. I especially liked your quote “All work and no play invites the stress to stay.” I totally agree that our mind and body needs to relax and destress after a hard day’s work. Otherwise, we’ll die from stress. And stress makes us look older. < This is what I actually do to destress my life and it works.

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