No, it doesn’t have to be wine and chocolate, although they both have heart healthy benefits, but taking some time at the end of the day to relax, enjoy yourself and focus on what was good during the day can go a long way to reducing your stress level.
Your body needs time to process cortisol, a chemical the body naturally creates during stress. There to regulate blood pressure and give you a quick burst of energy to manage your "fight or flight" response, cortisol in prolonged high levels can lead to heart disease. Sadly, too often we don't allow our bodies to relax enough to turn off the cortisol response and return to normal.
The biggest gift you can give yourself – and the people who love you – is managing your stress.
Here are some tips to reduce your stress level:
- Indulge yourself: Take a bite of the chocolate and let it melt on your tongue, swirl in a sip of wine. Let the flavors mingle and savor the taste. Heave wonderful sigh – “ahhhh” to release the tension of the day and focus on what is good. Just indulge yourself – you deserve it.
- Women are great at managing other people’s stress, but we are often lousy at taking the time to manage our own. Give yourself permission to indulge a little, with wine and chocolate, a cup of tea, or a guilty pleasure (like American Idol).
- Rock out: You know the song. You know every word. You hear it and your body just starts to move. Play it loud, sing along – dance around, let the joy out! Use the endorphins to raise your mood and lighten your load.
- Plus, moving your body – being active is a great way to lower your blood pressure, improve your glucose metabolism, manage your weight – and yes, reduce your stress.
- Sleep: Women are sleep deprived. We eat away at the margins of the day, getting up a bit earlier, and staying up a bit later to get everything done. If you are falling asleep at your computer it isn’t because you have a boring job – you are tired! Bored people fidget, tired people fall asleep. The only time body processes cortisol well is while you sleep – don’t deprive your body of the opportunity to protect your heart. Get some sleep!
- Get outside: Everyone needs at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight a day –yet we spend so much of our day inside. Get outside and get some sunlight. Take a walk at lunch time – or better yet eat outside as the days get warmer.
- Have some fun: One of the great things about having kids is they give you permission to do silly things, like skipping down the street or playing pranks on April Fool’s Day. Having fun is a great way to reduce your stress. Kim and Jason Kotecki have made it their life’s mission to help people live with less stress and more fun. Jason’s book Escape Adulthood is one of my favorite resources and Club K&J is a great place to find some ways to put more fun in your life.
However you do it -- find ways to let your body relax. Take the time to enjoy what is good and give yourself the chance to slow down, return to normal function and say, "ahhh."