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Stress is something we all experience from time to time. Heightened stress levels are reflected in several areas of our lives, including focuses on work, finances, and family. While it’s normal to have a certain level of stress in our lives, it can become an issue when it impacts our health. Stress triggers a response to your mind and body, which can be dangerous if it’s difficult for one to manage their stress.  

It’s important to know that stress is not the same thing as anxietyAnxiety is a response to stress. Managing stress is important to maintain a healthy mindset and to limit the physiological effects stress plays on the body. The accumulation of stressors not only can elicit clouded judgment or feelings of anxiety, but stress also elevates your heart rate and blood sugar. Keep in mind that both stress and anxiety conditions can impact a person mentally and physically, but it’s important to distinguish between them.   

This article will focus on how stress can impact the body, especially when it comes to blood pressure. Understanding the physical response to stress can help people learn coping strategies that can help improve their lives and wellbeing.   

How Stress Increases Your Blood Pressure 

Our stress response begins in the brain when it perceives a threat, either real or imagined. The brain then signals the hypothalamus in the brain’s undersurface which releases a corticotropin-releasing hormone that travels to the pituitary gland. This stimulates the pituitary gland to release an adrenocorticotropic hormone which travels to the adrenal glands at the top of your kidneys. This prompts the adrenal glands to release cortisol and epinephrine into the bloodstream, where they can travel throughout the body.   

Cortisol in your arteries causes the smooth muscle cells of your artery walls to contract and therefore make your arteries tougher, narrower, and less able to stretch. At the same time, epinephrine causes your heart to beat faster. Over time this can result in rigid, narrow arteries receiving blood that is pumped more forcefully from the heart, creating the chronic condition of high blood pressure and possibly leading to heart disease.  

6 Ways To Reduce Stress 

There are several healthy habits that can help reduce your stress level and significantly lower blood pressure or reduce your chances of developing Hypertension.  

 1) Putting yourself first

You can start with managing the responsibilities you put upon yourself.  When you don’t have the time to take on specific projects or need a moment to relax. Practice the power of simply saying “no”. Everyone needs a break now and again. If you find yourself in a situation where you are overwhelmed, make a habit of asking for help when you need it.  

2) Plan ahead

Discovering what “makes you tick” can help you to manage it. Then you can strategize ways to manage common stressors, in hopes to ultimately lower the amount of stress you experience. If you know that being late or sitting through traffic is stressful to you, then plan accordingly to avoid those things when you can. If it’s impossible to avoid stressors, consider things you can do in the moment to help relieve the tension, such as listening to music or taking a few deep breaths.  

3) When you feel overwhelmed, find your breath

Some people like to sit quietly and reflect; others want to tap into a deeper relaxation by controlling your respiratory rate to slow, deep breaths. You could try meditating or visualization to help calm yourself down. There are many techniques to try. There are advanced controlled breathing exercises, like alternate-nostril breathing, that has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate. An easy breathing technique is practicing belly breathing. Throughout your typical day your breath isn’t using all of your lung’s power. Practice diaphragmatic breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose until your abdomen fills and your chest slightly expands. Then release all the air slowly through your lips, with a relaxed jaw. Do this for several minutes and take notice of the release and relaxation experienced with every exhale. 

4) Reflect and affirmations

Sit in a calm place and reflect or start journaling. Finding time to acknowledge the present moment can help you to find your bearings. Address things in your past or picture your idealistic future, reflection is powerful. Visualize it, write it down, or say it out loud. Remember, it’s important to give yourself a high-five for how far you’ve come.  

5) Find a support circle

Maybe your idea of relaxation is spending time with someone you care about or participating in your favorite hobby. Sometimes the presence of someone else, including your loving pets, can help you to find calmness. 

6) Healthy lifestyle

The best way to manage your stress is putting your overall health first. It’s important to take care of your body to help reduce the impact life may have on your heart, physiologically and emotionally. Get plenty of  exercise, sleep well, and eat a balanced diet.   

Everybody has areas of their life that stresses them out. It can be helpful to know what that might mean for you. Just as important as discovering stressors you need to manage, is finding ways to relax that works for you. Stress happens. However, the small changes you make today can help preserve your health tomorrow. Consider how stress affects your life, and ultimately your cardiovascular health too.  

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Sheree McDonald is a freelance writer, editor and overall word enthusiast. She enjoys crafting well-researched content that educates and provokes discussion. When she isn’t writing, her time is spent exploring the great outdoors of Idaho with her family or cracking open the newest book in her collection. 

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