If you have a lot of stress in your life or spend a lot of time worrying, there’s something I need to tell you: don’t sweat the small stuff.
Although your heart and brain serve two totally different functions, are located in different parts of your body, and seem almost entirely unrelated, they are in fact closely connected. When you experience any kind of emotion—happiness, sadness, anger, jealousy, joy—the feelings created by your brain can have an impact on your heart.
Negative thoughts and emotions, such as stress and worrying, have adverse effects on your heart. Studies have shown that stress can have dangerous implications for people with and without heart disease, sometimes providing potentially fatal results and giving some truth to statements such as “worried to death.”
Sometimes stress can be a good thing. Helpful stress, also known as eustress, can provide motivation to get things done and stay focused. On the other hand, unhelpful stress or distress can be so strong that it causes fatigue and heart disease.
When people experience distress such as anger, anxiety, or worry—all brain-based conditions—oxygen to the brain is reduced and irregular heartbeats can occur. This can have fatal results for anyone, but is much more dangerous for those with heart disease. And if you’ve just been diagnosed with heart disease, the stress this new information can cause may lead to a heart attack or another harmful heart-related event inside of a year.
How to Control Stress
So, what can you do? Controlling your stress, anger, and worry is very important. And I’m not talking about suppressing these emotions, but instead finding ways to handle them constructively.
Perspective is a great way to do this. You might find yourself worrying a lot about things you simply can’t control. You can’t control how your boss treats you, the traffic, or how your husband or wife might leave dishes in the sink. If these things make you angry or are causing you distress, take a minute and ask yourself
- If it really matters, and
- If it’s worth getting so bent out of shape over.
Exercise is another great stress reliever. It provides a physical outlet while promoting positive physiological responses that aid in stress relief and better heart health. Exercise promotes oxygen distribution and a healthy heart, and can release endorphins that make you feel better. Resistance training, tai chi, running, cycling, dancing, and yoga can all help reduce stress and improve heart health.
It might also be worthwhile to talk to a professional if you’re experiencing anger issues. These issues not only make you feel bad, but they can pose a serious threat to your health and livelihood. Sometimes talking and working with a therapist is the best way to relax, put things into perspective, and stop sweating the small stuff!