Mental stress can include constant worry, difficulty making decisions, forgetfulness, the inability to concentrate, lack of creativity, loss of sense of humor, and poor memory. Emotional stress may include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, depression, and irritability.
Causes of Mental and Emotional Stress
Some common causes of mental and emotional stress are personal illnesses, both mental and physical, relationship problems, financial problems, family issues, work overload, legal problems, death of a loved one, or a major life change such as a recent relocation, along with personality factors such as being a perfectionist or having a high need for achievement. Any one or a combination of these factors can increase your stress levels and have a negative impact on your health.
The Connection Between Mental and Emotional Stress and Cardiovascular Functioning
According to one university study, the physiological reaction stress is well characterized, but its link to cardiovascular disease risk is not well understood. However, the importance of stress management is highlighted for cardiovascular disease prevention. The American Heart Association also contends that research shows there could be physiological connections between stress and heart disease. This is because stress can increase hormones like adrenaline that negatively impact your blood pressure and heart rate.
It is well-documented that blood pressure varies according to different mental stress activity. And since mental and emotional stress factors differ according to type and length, it can be a risk-factor as chronic stress causes a prolonged activation of the sympathetic nervous system, in other words your fight or flight response. This secretes adrenaline in your body, and this response acts primarily on the cardiovascular system. One study suggests that the overall data gathered on stress links it to adverse cardiac events, but typically this happens only after the cardiac event has occurred, such as a heart attack.
Overall, while the linkage does not seem to be crystal clear, enough research suggests that mental and emotional stress are important factors to consider in cardiovascular health. And more and more research is being conducted to determine the effects of mental and emotional stress on cardiovascular health, because many experts agree that there is a connection, and stress management is a necessary component one should consider in his or her own life.
Strategies to Monitor and Reduce Stress
It it ultimately up to the individual to determine how much stress he or she is experiencing and how it is making them feel. One thing you can do is check your own blood pressure regularly, especially if you are under chronic stress.
Communicating with your doctor is another strategy to help manage stress. Most doctors are not only concerned for your physical health, but also your mental and emotional health. Tell your doctor if you have been experiencing chronic stress or have just experienced a significantly stressful event in your life. This way, they can monitor you better through blood pressure tests and an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check the heart’s electrical activity, causes of any chest pain, irregular heartbeats, or inflammation around the heart.
Exercise is a good way to reduce stress. It can be a good outlet for relieving anxiety or anger at the end of the day. Many different exercises can be performed, such as running, lifting weights, or yoga to name a few. Exercise releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that produce and overall feeling of well-being. And with higher endorphin levels, you will feel fewer of the effects of stress. Exercise can also help you sleep, which can also be a good stress reliever.
Relaxation or downtime is another strategy. Chances are, you can find at least 30 minutes a day to just relax and take some time for yourself to decompress. In my opinion, most people think they are busier than they really are and can cut some things out of their life to find relaxation time. Other forms of relaxation may include a massage or acupuncture. While these require more advanced scheduling and time, it may well be worth the while it to reduce your mental and emotional stress factors.
As more evidence suggests that mental and emotional stress have a negative impact on cardiovascular health, they are important to self-manage. The biggest problem is that people wait until it is too late to make any adjustments, such as waiting until they have high blood pressure or a heart attack. Managing your stress is an important element to keep your body healthy. Regularly monitor your own stress levels, communicate with your doctor, and make time for regular exercise and relaxation.