How Can I Reduce my Stress Level?

Everyone has stress in their daily lives. Stressful situations range from major events like a death in the family to the normal rush hour traffic jam. The ways your body reacts to stress can also vary. A person under stress may experience a pounding heart, headaches or muscle tension. Stress can grow into anger or depression. A stressed person may even experience changes in his or her behaviour.

Heart Disease and Stress

Researchers are still studying the link between stress and heart disease. So far we know that people under stress will sometimes have higher blood pressure and cholesterol and a higher chance of developing blood clots. Someone under stress is also likely to smoke more, eat too much or skip physical activity.

We can't avoid stress, and it seems today's lifestyles are more stressful than ever. It's important to learn to cope with stress so that it affects our bodies as little as possible.

Stress Stoppers

People tend to react to stress in one of three ways:

  • Task-oriented coping - You think the situation through and take action to deal with it.
  • Emotion-oriented coping - You deal with your feelings and look for support from others.
  • Distraction-oriented coping - You use activities or work to take your mind off the situation.

Only you know your stress-management style. It's good to keep your style in mind when you look at these ways of coping with stress. Some ways may work better for you than others. For example:

  • Take a break. Go for a walk, take in a movie, or take a weekend vacation.
  • Try to get a good night's sleep.
  • Get some help where you need it. For example, if you are caring for children or an older parent, arrange for a friend or relative to fill in for you once in a while.
  • Look at your lifestyle. Try to find ways to avoid, alter or accept what is causing you stress.
  • Enjoy regular, moderate physical activity.
  • Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or stretching exercises.
  • Be patient. Don't try to do more than one thing at a time. Prioritize what you have to do.
  • Learn to say “no”
  • Put a little fun into your day. Do something you enjoy, like gardening, dancing or sports.
  • Share your problems with others. A new perspective can help you see things in a new light.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is high in whole grains, vegetables and fruit, and low in fat.
  • Consider seeking help from a professional to help with your efforts to reduce stress (examples include a registered dietitian, a certified fitness leader or your doctor).

Additional Resources

Prepared by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and modified by Alberta Health Services. This FAQ appeared originally on the Canadian Health Network Web site

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