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Decode Your Stress Management Skills

Almost everyone experiences some form of stress. Take this quick quiz to discover what Johns Hopkins research has determined to be the best, heart-friendliest ways to cope with the stress in your life.

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Positive Self-Talk

We all talk to ourselves. But too often, that conversation can be negative: “This is awful.” “I’m a bad person.” “Everything is a mess.” This negative self-talk can add to stress.

Positive self-talk, on the other hand, reframes those thoughts in a better light. Learning to catch your negative thinking and talk to yourself in a positive way instead can actually turn your stress reaction around. Compare the above statements to these: “This is rough, but I can get help.” “I’m doing the best I can.” “Things could be worse.”

Stress can raise your blood pressure and make you feel sick. Unfortunately, many of the ways people cope with stress turn out to be bad for the heart, too, because they raise cholesterol and blood sugar or otherwise damage body systems.

“Stress is not good, but everyone experiences it. That’s why it’s so important to manage stress in healthy ways,” says Hugh Calkins, M.D., director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Johns Hopkins.

Test yourself to see whether you can tell the helpful stress management tactics from the ones that make things even worse.

1. Which of these activities is more apt to make you feel less stressed?

a. Taking a long walk
b. Taking a long nap

a. Taking a long walk. “Exercise is one of the best ways you can manage stress, and it has the added benefit of helping you burn calories so you can better maintain a normal weight and heart health,” Calkins says. While a quick nap can be helpful, sleeping longer than 20 to 30 minutes risks interfering with your overall sleep needs.

2. What should you eat if you feel stressed?

a. Ice cream
b. Nuts
c. Potato chips

b. Nuts. They contain tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein that improves depression and promotes relaxation. Nuts are also part of a heart-healthy diet. Ice cream and chips may soothe you in the short run, but their empty calories and high sugar and sodium contents are all linked to heart damage.

3. Which of these is a proven way to relax when you’re stressed?

a. Yoga
b. Meditation
c. Deep breathing
d. All of these
e. None of these

d. All of these. These relaxation strategies calm tension in both your mind and your body. You can practice these techniques on your own at home. You may want to sign up for a class to learn relaxation techniques.

4. Can medicine ease stress?

a. Usually
b. Rarely

b. Rarely. Stress management tactics, such as exercise, nutrition, relaxation and other mental approaches, are considered a better way to deal with stress than medication over the long haul. Be sure that your stress isn’t due to anxiety or depression, which are conditions that can be treated successfully with medication.

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