How to control chronic stress and enjoy a long, healthy life?
Recently my healthy, fit, athletic husband of 55 suddenly dropped to his knees after a 6 mile run in our beautiful hill country neighborhood. Ventricular Tachycardia. His heart spiked to 245 beats per minute from a rare heart condition called Cardiac Sarcoidosis. Leaving his 8 physicians and specialists scratching their heads, they all seemed to agree on one very serious issue: his chronic stress. With almost half a million people worldwide who are 100 years of age or older, new research points to what many centenarians have in common. While good diet, frequent exercise, and other lifestyle factors are important, one factor seems to dominate them all: successful stress management. The ability to cope with stress and having a generally positive attitude are strong predictors for longevity.
Our bodies are designed to handle good stress. Normal stress that is brief and intense such as studying for a test or working out can be beneficial. On the other hand, chronic stress increases cortisol levels, which raises blood pressure and breaks down stored energy reserves. In fact, chronic stress is tied to high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and exhaustion. Additionally, it makes us age because it damages our DNA.
So what can we do to help reduce this silent killer?
Meditate: Take advantage of the free mindful meditation podcasts and apps.
Move: Exercise is the closest thing there is to a panacea; it's on every disease prevention list.
Laugh: Read or listen to something funny. Spend time with people who make you laugh and keep a smile on your face.
Spend time in nature: Go for a hike, go to the beach or lake, visit a park.
Create: Paint, sing, dance, cook, play an instrument. Creative expression can facilitate insight, emotional and physical release, and social connection.
Gratitude: Write three to five things a day for which you are grateful. Gratitude can change your outlook and experience of life.
Stress is, of course, a natural part of life. However, it’s important to be as mindful as often as we can and reflect on all of the positive aspects of life. Your happiness depends on your perspective. For the sake of your heart, make it a good one!