We live in a fast-paced, high-performance world, full of stressful situations. From bills to pay, school and work deadlines, traffic jams, demanding jobs, college applications, injuries and illnesses, the list of stress-causers goes on and on.

Chronic stress may affect factors and behaviors that increase your risk of serious illness, including heart disease, like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.

When you find yourself anxious or overwhelmed, what can you do? Here are a few tips for staying calm in stressful situations.

  1. Breathe. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Focus on your breathing, not on the issue causing the stress. Some find it helpful to breathe in to a count of three, hold your breath for a count of three, then exhale slowly to a count of three. As you breathe, relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders and stomach.

  2. Count to 10. In the time it takes you to do so, you may be able to look at your situation with a fresh pair of eyes.

  3. Take a walk. If possible, remove yourself from the stressful situation by stepping out for a walk. Try to focus on your environment rather than the stressor. Sometimes, just a few minutes will help put the situation into perspective.

  4. Try a 3-Minute Meditation. Find a quiet place. Position yourself comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Notice how your body feels. Allow your thoughts to drift in and out of your consciousness. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply. Then slowly open your eyes.

  5. Practice gratitude. Find something positive, something for which you can be thankful. Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Look for it.

  6. Eat well. Good nutrition is an important stress management tool. Manage blood sugar levels by eating a nutritious (ideally high-protein, low-sugar) breakfast and snacking on healthful foods throughout the day.

  7. Get moving. Exercise is a great stress buster. It releases endorphins that act as natural painkillers and improve your ability to sleep, reducing stress.

  8. Let it go. Ask yourself if the thing causing the stress is really worth it. Considering it in a broader context might take some of the bite out of it.

  9. Get help. If you are having trouble managing stress, seek out a local stress-relief class, or seek the help of a therapist.

To learn more about heart-healthy living, schedule an appointment with a cardiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann online or by calling (713) 222-2273.

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