Five Ways to Lower Your Stress AND Your Blood Pressure

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Once upon a time, work was work, and leisure was leisure. The office was the office and home was home, and never the twain did meet. Then along came smartphones, and everything changed.

Suddenly we’re getting emails on the way to work. We’re catching up on correspondence late into the night. We’re squeezing work into our weekend downtime. There’s an expectation in the modern office that we’re always connected, always available. We’re probably more efficient as a result, and we’re certainly more flexible—who doesn’t like the freedom to be at their kids’ baseball games, even if it means sending emails between innings? But the constant connectivity and accelerating pace of our work lives is also raising our stress. Back in 2012, the American Psychological Association reports that 35% of Americans saw their stress levels increase. While today’s findings show declining levels, they still remain higher than what Americans believe to be healthy. And as our stress rises, so does our blood pressure.

When we experience stress, our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol into the blood, triggering our “Fight or Flight” instinct. Our hearts beat faster and our blood vessels constrict, raising our blood pressure. This response was helpful back when we were facing lions in the jungle. But what about now, when we’re facing a demanding boss who is asking of us more than we’re able? We can’t fight our bosses, nor can we run from them. So in order to manage our blood pressure in the modern workplace, we need to manage our stress.

Here are five healthy tips to manage your stress, and keep your blood pressure in check.

  1. Be here now: Take back the once-clear line between work and leisure. When you’re at the office, stay off Facebook, manage your time and get as much done as possible. But when you come home, make sure you’re really at home. All 100% of you. Your family will appreciate it. Your blood pressure will, too.
  1. Limit your correspondence: Set ground rules for yourself on when you’ll send work emails. People notice the time of your emails. Are you the type of worker who routinely sends emails at midnight? If so, you’re setting an example for your colleagues. You’re also making it more likely that you’ll receive emails after hours, from people expecting a response.
  1. Find your balance: Yoga is an ancient art practiced for its physical, mental and spiritual benefits. It’s all about balance. In yoga you focus on your breath, balancing inhalation with exhalation as you move your body and clear your mind. It’s calming stuff, and a worthwhile way to start your day. Wake up early, unroll your mat, and find your inner balance before going into the office. You can even grab a DVD and do it from home before the kids need breakfast.

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  1. Daily exercise: With our busy lives, it’s hard to find time to exercise. Even when we have the time, it’s hard to muster the willpower. But nothing is better for our brains and bodies than daily exercise, especially when we’re stressed. So make time for a half-hour YouTube workout, a morning jog or lunch-hour circuit training session. Better yet, bike to work and exercise as you commute.
  1. Healthy diet: Stress can ruin our diet. We don’t have time to cook, so we eat quick, unhealthy foods. We eat too much, or too little. Take control over your calories by planning your meals to include stress, and the L-tryptophan in turkey has a calming effect. Orange-honey glazed turkey breast, anyone?

How do you manage your stress? Let us know what works for you.

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