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A certain amount of stress is a normal and healthy part of life, especially for women, who often juggle several roles at once including homemaker, wife, mother, employee, and caretaker. But for a woman living with heart disease, too much prolonged stress releases excessive amounts of adrenaline into the bloodstream, which can increase blood pressure and further damage your heart.

Are you stressed? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do minor problems and disappointments upset you excessively?
2. Do the small pleasures of life fail to satisfy you?
3. Are you unable to stop thinking about your worries?
4. Do you feel inadequate or suffer from self-doubt?
5. Are you constantly tired?
6. Do you experience flashes of anger over situations that used to not bother you?
7. Have you noticed a change in your sleeping or eating patterns?
8. Do you suffer from chronic pain, headaches, or backaches?

If you answered YES to most of these questions, chances are you are stressed out. If this sounds like you, you need to learn how to better manage stress by slowing down, setting clear boundaries, and taking better care of yourself. You can: 

Examine your daily activities. Decide which ones you can reduce, postpone, eliminate, or delegate to someone else.

Learn how to say "no." You can't do everything and it is ok to decline requests for extra work assignments, additional family responsibilities or invitations from negative and critical people. Learn to be selective about how and with whom you spend your time.

Stop trying to be Superwoman. Try to set more realistic standards for yourself. If you are a perfectionist or workaholic, you may need to seek professional help to get your life into balance or to identify deeper causes for these unhealthy behaviors.

Walk or exercise for a minimum 20 minutes each day. It will relax your muscles, clear your mind, and increase the flow of oxygen into your bloodstream. Even better, walk with a friend or spouse you can confide in and laugh with.

Take several five-minute relaxation breaks during the day. Close your office door if you have one, turn off the lights, sit in a comfortable chair, and shut your eyes. Breathe deeply several times and allow yourself to relax. Think beautiful thoughts!

Create balance and connections in your life. Staying connected to other people soothes your heart. Women with heart disease fare better if they are active and participate in community activities, attend religious services, or perform volunteer work.

Take good care of your body. Eat healthy and nourishing foods (lots of fresh fruits and vegetables!), drink alcohol in moderation, drink lots of water, and get enough sleep. Say good-bye to fast foods, fried foods, snack foods, and - most of all - cigarettes.

Treat yourself with tender loving care. Take a bubble bath or long shower, light some candles, listen to your favorite music, cuddle with your lover or pet, put fresh flowers in your room, get a massage, or laugh with your best friend. Give hugs and receive hugs. Do whatever it takes to help you relax and feel nourished.  

Source: Mental Health America
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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the nearly 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease. Our programs are made possible by donations, grants and corporate partnerships.

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a founding partner of The Heart Truth Red Dress campaign. The Heart Truth and Red Dress are trademarks of HHS.