Stress and Hypertension
The link between stress and hypertension is undeniable. The very simple fact is that if you live a high stress life then that fact is probably going to reflect in a higher blood pressure (and probably a shorter life span).
Another thing about stress and stress-related blood pressure is that it’s not always evident. You can be a sufferer of stress and not even realize it. Stress builds up slowly in the dark recesses of your nervous system over the course of years. What feels ‘normal’ to you may actually be a stressful existence.
But stress doesn’t affect us all equally. Some of us can get away with a lot more stress than others when it comes to blood pressure and health in general. I’m not one of those people and stress will always show up in my blood pressure, so I’ve had to take remedies to reduce stress.
How to reduce stress and hypertension?
That’s easier said than done. Wanting to reduce stress and actually accomplishing it are two different things. You can’t ‘think’ your stress levels down (in fact, that’s a bit of a mental trap) – you have to DO something.
If you suffer from stress and high blood pressure you want to get the levels of both your stress and hypertension down.
Go for a wee walk
To start, take a walk, preferably in nature, like a path through the woods or your local park if you have one nearby. Get away from loud mechanical noises like cars if possible. The tranquility of nature can be very soothing for your nerves – there are actually psychological studies proving this now, although probably most of us already know it.
(Click here for an article on Walking to lower blood pressure.)
Try Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation
Doing physical practices like Yoga andTai Chi are also good for reducing stress and hypertension – they are calming and grounding, so they’re effective at lowering stress, but they’re also aerobic physical exercise so help lower blood pressure that way too. There’s a great article on getting into yoga here: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Yoga.
Meditation is another practice that’s becoming more popular as more studies show how beneficial it is for managing stress and difficult emotions. In fact, meditating regularly is good for your brain and body in multiple ways, including helping lower blood pressure.
Acupuncture has also been noted as good for reducing stress and lowering blood pressure – although I haven’t tried that myself. There’s a good article here about reducing stress in general but also with reference to how acupuncture can help you relax: The Relaxation Response (Mindful Medicine)
Take a deep breath…
Another increasingly popular way to reduce stress and blood pressure is slow breathing. Studies now unequivocally show that breathing slowly for a few minutes can bring your blood pressure down almost instantly. This is particularly good to know in stressful situations when we tend to tense up and breathe more quickly. Remembering to take a few slow breaths when you’re stressed will not only take the edge of your stress levels and help you think more clearly but will also be reducing your blood pressure.
Of course, the moment you start breathing quickly, it’ll shoot back up again. That’s why it’s best to practice slow breathing for ten to fifteen minutes every day. There’s two benefits to this. The first is that the more you practice slow breathing, the more you’ll be able to do it at will when difficult situations arise. The second is that studies also suggest that regular slow breathing will bring your blood pressure down over the long-term, as well as in the immediate moments of slow breathing.
You can read more about it on our sister website here: How slow breathing lowers blood pressure
How to do slow breathing to lower stress and hypertension
So how do you do it?
Well, you just sit down comfortably and breathe slowly for fifteen minutes. For some people that’s straightforward. For others, it can be difficult to keep remembering to keep your breathing slow, and to keep breathing at an even rate. Actually, it can be surprisingly tricky!
High Street chemists here in the UK are now selling a special machine called ‘Resperate‘ which assists you in calming down the system through slow, regulated breathing. These machines aren’t cheap – selling for around £100 + – but they do seem to be effective.
Personally I listen to audio recordings to do stress-reducing slow breathing exercises. They have prompts which guide you to keep your breathing at a certain rate. I used to use the BreathEasy tapes but now they’re not available, I’ve created my own guided slow breathing audio recordings.
You can listen to samples here: Breathe Slow sound samples (and the full set of recordings are available to purchase).
Just following along for 15 minutes a day helps restore sanity into my life, relaxes my nervous system, and helps keep my blood pressure withing healthy ranges.
Have a laugh
And there’s also laughter therapy! Yes, simple laughing – deep, belly laughing that is, not mere chuckles – can do wonders for your stress levels and blood pressure. Read more here: Laughing to reduce stress and hypertension
Making time for yourself and other ways to reduce stress and hypertension
As well as practicing specific methods and techniques, there are plenty ordinary things you can do, or do more of, that can help you stay relaxed and happy.
Just listening to music is relaxing. You can read more about this on our sister Breathe Slow website here: Can listening to music lower your blood pressure? (Yes.)
Trust yourself. You can tell what activities help you relax and which ones tend to make you tense. Doing anything you personally find relaxing – that absorbs you and takes your mind off any worries – will help. So the key thing is to make more time for those activities. Maybe you can incorporate them more into your daily life, or maybe you need to carve out special times for them. Walk all or partway to work, if you enjoy walking, or put relaxing music on in the car.
If you want more ideas, you’ll find more links and resources to do with stress reduction in our article here: Dealing with stress and hypertension
Other causes of high blood pressure
Mind you, stress isn’t the only factor that can cause high blood pressure. There’s also poor diet, lack of exercise, and genetics that can contribute to hypertension. Thankfully all these factors can be dealt with. Of course you can’t change your genetic code but adopting a healthy blood pressure lifestyle can counteract any genetic propensities towards developing high blood pressure you may have inherited.
But stress remains a central contributing factor with most people with hypertension. You’ll want to reduce stress in your life one way or the other. Too much stress can cause all sorts of health complications later on in life.
Life stress-free. Live happy. Live healthy.
Slow breathing to reduce stress and hypertension: more information
You can choose between tracks with different numbers of breaths per minute so you can find the pace that suits you. You can also work through different tracks in order to practice breathing more slowly over time. For example, you can start at 10 breaths per minute and work your way down to 6 breaths per minute for even deeper relaxation and blood pressure reduction.
The audio tracks also come with different kinds of background music (because not everyone’s tastes are the same, and variety is good!). There are also tracks with breathing prompts only in case you prefer that, or want to play your own background music.
You can download them as mp3s, which you can then transfer to any device you want to listen to (computer, laptop, mp3 player, etc).
I should also mention that at the moment I’m giving away a free copy of my book when you buy the audio tracks: Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally – The Complete 9 Step Guide
It’s an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to lowering your blood pressure through simple and tasty changes in what you eat and drink, and through various exercises and activities.
There’s also a lot more information and tips on ways to relax and lower your stress levels. So it really is an all-in-one guide to lowering your blood pressure naturally, and is a perfect complement to the slow breathing audio tracks!
Click here for more information: Breathe-Slow.com