Frances Masters Manage Stress No Comments
Try these 4 Easy Steps to Protect your Heart Health Today
John and Jim had finished a morning of work and were lining up for lunch in the staff canteen.
They both did the same job in a large organisation. They were the same age and roughly the same weight and build. They were also both feeling pretty hungry and looking forward to having something to eat. However, there seemed to be a bit of a hold-up. The queue was backing up to the door and it looked as though there would be a ten minute wait at least.
Even though John and Jim were both waiting in the same queue, by the time they got to the till to pay, John was relaxed, calm and composed while Jim’s blood pressure had gone through the roof, his stomach felt unsettled and he had the start of a niggling pain at the back of his head.
When he finally sat down to eat, he felt angry and distracted and barely paid any attention to his long-awaited meal at all.
So, how come John and Jim experienced the same delay in exactly the same circumstances but emerged the other side with completely different reactions?
STOP and take a step back
During those ten minutes, two very different responses were going on.
John practised the STOP System, mentally taking a step back from the situation and into his observing self, that part of the brain that can take a wider view. He accepted there was nothing he could do, or needed to do, about it. So he practised emotional intelligence by taking the opportunity for some ‘me time’. He relaxed his breathing and focused his attention on the fragrant aroma of Thai green curry wafting through the air, which he was anticipating eating in a short while.
Jim, on the other hand, had become angrier and angrier.
‘I only get an hour for lunch’
‘I don’t want to spend time queuing up when I could be doing so many other things’.
‘This is ten minutes of my life I won’t get back.’
‘I’ve got a pile of work on my desk that needs sorting.’
’ Who’s causing this hold-up anyway?’
‘This always happens to me.’
’ Why can’t people get themselves organised and do the job they’re paid for?’
The stream of negative thoughts continued and, with every angry statement, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline built up in his bloodstream, preparing his body to fight or run away from a predator which didn’t actually exist.
Stress and your heart
Heart disease is still the number one cause of death for men and women in the Western world.
This is pretty frightening when we consider the condition is largely preventable for most of us. Stress plus smoking, alcohol, poor diet and a sedentary life style, are all risk factors.
But lowering your stress level is something you can do easily and immediately by focusing on your breathing rate, slowing it down and talking a mental ‘step back’ from the internal chatter, which is often so negative.
When stress strikes, STOP!
- Slow your breathing down
- Take a mental ‘step back’
- Observe thoughts and emotions from further away
- Practise emotional intelligence
February is heart disease awareness month, so it’s a good time to take the look at your life style and your thinking style too, and wonder whether the STOP System plus a bit of regular mindfulness-based meditation might be easy and accessible ways to begin to protect your heart health today.