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Stress is much more than an emotion. It can put a physical strain on your heart or worsen other heart disease risk factors. Fortunately, there are ways to manage your stress and improve your health!

The first step to stress management is recognizing what makes you stressed and learning how to react. After you’ve identified your sources of stress, you can try to avoid them. When you do feel stressed, the following techniques can help you gain control of your situation and stay positive.

1. Take time for yourself every day. Women often spend a lot of time caring for the people around them – their family, their friends, and even their coworkers. But it’s important for you to remember that you’re important, too! Simple daily activities like the ones below can help you clear your head and reduce your stress.

◦Listen to soothing music.

◦Write in a journal.

◦Take a hot shower or bath.

◦Pause, reflect, and think about something positive – a favorite place or a happy memory.

2. Create a support system. Talk with women who get your life. Take time to enjoy heart healthy activities with a friend or family member (click here for ideas), or visit the Sister to Sister online community to find other women on the journey to a healthier heart.

3. Practice relaxation techniques. These techniques can slow your heartbeat and breathing, helping you to feel calmer.

◦Breathe deeply. Inhale deeply through your nose to a count of four, hold for two seconds, and then exhale out your mouth to a count of four. Repeat five to 10 times.

◦Relax your muscles. Sit quietly and close your eyes. Start by tensing then relaxing the muscles of your feet. Move up your body, tensing then relaxing each body part. Focus on steady, calm breathing.

◦Meditate. Use a meditation tape or guided imagery to take your mind to a soothing and relaxing place.

4. Get your body moving. Activity helps to relieve the tension in your body and makes you feel better. If you don’t have time for a workout, there are plenty of other ways to get your blood pumping and your feel-good hormones going. Ten minutes is all you need!

◦Walk the halls or stairs of your office.

◦Do jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups in place at home.

◦Take a walk with a friend.

◦Dance to your favorite music.

5. Get enough sleep. Easier said than done, we know. But making sleep a priority — ideally, seven to nine hours each night – provides a built-in stress reducer for your body!

◦Try to go to sleep at the same time every night.

◦Do something calming before bed, such as reading a book.

◦If you have persistent thoughts, write them down in a journal to help clear your mind.

◦Limit caffeine products after 4 p.m.

◦Cut back on alcohol.

6. Eat healthy foods. Choosing healthy foods can lower your blood sugar and make you feel calmer.

◦Fuel up on fruits, vegetables and proteins.

◦Eat whole grains, such as wheat bread and crackers.

◦Limit caffeine and sugar.

7. Limit alcohol. Alcohol may seem like it relaxes you, but drinking too much raises your blood pressure and disrupts sleep.

Source: Sister2Sister.org

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