One of the leading factors which has a direct impact on blood pressure is STRESS. It’s all around us in our everyday lives: at work where countless demands are continuously made on our time, especially nowadays due to the technology we rely on. Then at home, where in addition to the domestic stressors of running a house, raising children, paying the bills etc. we still have technology to thank for keeping us connected with our work. Consequently we often never get a real break away from the daily grind.
It is reassuring to know that the human body has a built-in stress management system – the stress hormone Cortisol which is ready to kick in when needed. But this system is not designed to be turned on 24/7, which for many of us it is.
The body’s “fight or flight” reaction evolved as a survival mechanism to deal with any external threat by eliciting a physical response… namely stop and stand up to the perceived threat, or run like the jeepers away from it. Once the threat was resolved the cortisol levels would then lower naturally.
Effects Excess Cortisol:
Unfortunately, the type of modern day stress which most of us face, and which has been appropriately labelled ‘Distress’ by scientists, comes with no physical outlet or release mechanism to deal with all the cortisol circulating in the body. If left unchecked over time chronic stress can lead to some potentially seriously harmful side effects, such as elevated blood pressure, inflammation of the circulatory system, heart disease and at worst stroke.
So what can we do about this Cortisol conundrum? How can we deal with this rampant cortisol coursing through our bodies? I have come up with a 3 tips today which will show you how to lower blood pressure quickly when faced with stressful situations:
TIP #1 – Take 8-10 Deep Breaths
This one I find very useful because it can be done ‘on the spot’ as soon as you start to feel stressed. You can literally do it anytime, anywhere. You just need to find a quiet spot where you can make yourself comfortable. Then close you eyes and just focus on sound of the air movement in and out as you take 8 – 10 deep breaths. When we are stressed we tend to engage in shallow chest breathing which minimizes the amount of oxygen being taken into the body. By slowing down the breathing you end up sending a signal via the Vagus nerve to nervous system which then responds by slowing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and reining in the amount of cortisol being produced and released.
TIP #2 – Practice some form of Meditation/Relaxation.
Taking time out to meditate is another effective approach for keeping stress under control. There are indeed many forms of meditation from guided to group to the latest trending WooWoo meditation. However it does not have to be complicated. For me it is all about finding a quiet space where I can enjoy some soothing music, close my eyes for about 15-20 minutes and just live in the moment. Again listening to my breath helps my mind to become less active and lets me dismiss any distractions that come my way, so I end up focussing just on the present. It allows me to enter ‘the neutral zone’ where I can forget all my worries for a short time. And this calming effect has a truly beneficial impact on the body as a whole.
For those of you not drawn to the traditional forms of meditation, I would like to suggest you pay a visit to the website www.calm.com. There you can spend some time relaxing and decompressing as you listen to soothing music and watch a selection of beautiful videos of mountains, sunsets, or waves splashing on the beach for 1, 2, 5, 10, 15 minutes or longer. You can set the timer!
TIP #3 – Exercise to the Rescue!
Why not put your body back into the proper “fight or flight” mode through physical activity? This way the cortisol will be released appropriately as you treat it with some type of aerobic activity. For those who want to go for “fight”, a good old fashioned punching bag will work wonders – or how about trying kickboxing? For the rest of us there are lots of activities which simulate “flight” – jogging, swimming, treadmill and elliptical machines, to name a few. Even walking will bring with it some benefits – just remember to keep up a brisk pace and swing those arms!
A routine of exercising for about 30 minutes three to five times a week will go a long way to keeping your cortisol levels under control.
The stress hormone cortisol is indeed a double-edged sword – we need it for those occasions when a heightened state of arousal will help us perform better and attain a tangible outcome – for example, the nerves felt before giving an important presentation in public. But more and more it is becoming vital to our health that we recognize when we are in “distress” and for us to find ways to deal with it.
I hope the 3 tips presented above will give you some options which will assist you in that reduce your levels of stress hormone. Please feel free to add your comments to this post below. 🙂