15 Top Tips to Help You Unwind During the Holidays

Melanie Thomassian, registered Dietician

Friday, November 30, 2007 

Stress - who needs it? Granted a small amount is not always such a bad thing. However, too much can play havoc with our health, and instead of protecting us it can make us more vulnerable to health problems including headaches, stomach upsets, high blood pressure, and even stroke or heart disease

How does stress affect your heart?

Unmanaged stress can cause: 

·         High blood pressure

·         Irregular heart rhythms

·         Damage to our arteries

·         The development and progression of coronary artery disease

·         Weakened immune system

Learning to unwind

If you have a heart condition, the key to managing your stress is to understand what makes you feel anxious. Without a doubt, learning to deal with stress is a challenge for most. So, what steps can you take?

a) Practical methods:

  1. Take note of situations which cause you to feel stressed or anxious and try to avoid them
  2. Schedule your time using a calendar and to-do lists, so that you can prioritize your activities
  3. Learn how to say no to requests that you don’t have time for
  4. Rethink your goals if they seem unrealistic. Remember, you can’t do everything – and that’s okay!
  5. Learn to accept that some problems are out of your control; worrying simply won’t make the situation better


b) Physical well-being:

  1. Go outdoors regularly - breaking from your normal routine, and adding a little sunshine and fresh air can immediately reduce stress levels
  2. Take time out each day to relax - consider going for a walk, swimming or taking a yoga class. Remember, exercise is one of the best ways to beat stress
  3. Take care of yourself - eating a healthy, balanced diet will do wonders for your stress levels, helping you to feel more rational in difficult situations
  4. Get enough sleep – lack of sleep is a big contributor to how we feel and react
  5. Take a stress-break, you could try:
    1. Deep breathing - releases muscle tension, helps control breathing, and reduce stress levels
    2. Focused imagery – in a quite place, close your eyes and think about something which makes you feel relaxed, maybe it’s a beautiful sandy beach, or fishing on your favorite lake – what are the sounds/smells? How does it look? When stressful situations arise you will be able to bring this image alive to help you relax!
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