Daily life can be a strenuous undertaking. From juggling work commitments, dealing with microaggressions at the office, to raising children, or caring for aging parents while trying to manage our own physical health - it can be rough. According to recent surveys, feeling burned out and overwhelmed has become the norm for the majority of folks in the workplace. Stress and burnout impacts the entire body, but since February is American Heart Health Month, today we will focus on the heart. We can't always control the demands that are contributing to our feelings of overwhelm; but, there are things we can do to reduce the impact external pressures have on us. Here are five ways to protect your heart from the havoc of chronic stress: 1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep Getting less than the desired seven to nine hours is an established risk factor for a range of health concerns, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Our bodies repair themselves during sleep, so it makes sense that getting enough shut-eye is key to maintaining a healthier lifestyle. A study published in 2019 found that individuals who slept six hours or fewer per night were up to 20% more likely to suffer from heart failure. Getting adequate rest each night can be hard when we are still wound up from things that happened during the day. Give yourself a bedtime and work on building a nighttime routine that helps you disconnect from the worries of the day. 2. Stay Active Regular exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol ratios. Physical activity of any kind can both strengthen your heart and help lower stress hormones. This includes aerobic activity like jogging or swimming, and strength training activities like yoga or weightlifting. Any form of joyful movement will do the job. The best form of exercise is one that you enjoy and will actually do. Keep experimenting until you find something fun enough to eliminate the need for motivation. 3. Eat Well A diet rich in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains is protective against heart disease. Don't worry about hard and fast food rules. Dieting stresses most people out and inevitably leads to rebound binges. Focus on finding ways to prepare plants that you find delicious and gently increase the proportion of fruit and veg on your plate. 4. Connect with Loved Ones (that affirm and accept you) Spending time with friends and chosen family (that make you feel seen, heard, and cherished as you are) can lower levels of cortisol, which is associated with stress responses, inflammation, and other negative health outcomes. We are social creatures, and when we are happy, our hearts are too. 5. Take a Break Constantly being on, being connected, is one of the major reasons professionals are feeling so spread thin. Even if it's just for 5 minutes, allow yourself to replenish and relax. Taking short breaks for a brisk walk, deep breathing, or a stress reducing activity like tapping can change the trajectory of your day. While there are several things that you can do to safeguard your heart health as an individual, the power of organization level change to address employee wellness and prevent burnout is astronomical. Jobsite wellness programs that honor employee lived experience and help teams foster a culture of wellbeing are transformative. If you'd like to know more about the inclusive wellness programs we offer, schedule a discovery call. We'd love to hear from you.
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