Black woman, breath and hand on chest, for meditation and wellness being peaceful to relax. Bokeh, African American female and lady outdoor, in nature and being calm for breathing exercise and health

We all experience stress in one way or another, and while short-term stress poses minimal risk to our health, chronic stress impacts our hearts more than you might think.

Prolonged stress is linked to high blood pressure, which significantly increases the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and heart failure. Beyond just the physical toll, stress impacts emotional health by affecting your thoughts, actions, and feelings. This may cause you to feel frustration, fatigue, or have difficulty focusing, potentially impacting your work performance.

Learning to manage and lower your stress through self-care practices is one way to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. Self-care means taking the time to do things just for you to improve both your physical health and mental well-being. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.

Love your heart by loving yourself! Below are some tips for embracing self-care to reduce stress and lower your blood pressure.

Make Time for Yourself

Self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Not sure where to start on your self-care journey? Download this FREE self-care toolkit! Included are an assessment to help you identify your current self-care routine, an action plan for you to start implementing more self-care in your life, and a self-care bingo game to challenge yourself to try new self-care activities.

Daily Challenge: Elevate Your Day with Breathwork!

Take a moment today to practice mindful breathing. Inhale deeply for a count of four, hold for four, and exhale for four. Want to practice more mindful breathing? Check out our full video for a calming and invigorating breathwork session with our VRC Care Navigator, Michelle McNiff.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Your well-being isn’t limited to daylight hours alone.

It’s recommended that adults get at least seven or more hours of sleep per day. A 2023 study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona found that even just a few poor nights of sleep could cause a sudden spike in blood pressure. Taking steps to achieve quality sleep can notably decrease your vulnerability to obesity, heart and kidney disease, diabetes, and even stroke.

Do your worries or what you need to do the next day keep you awake at night? Before bedtime write down the most pressing worries of the day. Also, make a to-do list for the next day and prioritize the top 2-3 items. This way you can file your worries and priorities away for the next day, so they don’t take up any mental bandwidth in your mind at night. For more tips on how to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep, read this blog!

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is an act of self-love. By establishing your limits, you not only safeguard your well-being but also communicate your values, beliefs, and priorities to others. It demonstrates that you deserve to be treated well and ensures supportive and respectful relationships.

But while everyone can have boundaries, the hard part is enforcing them. Here are some tips:

  1. Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, say or do something about it.
  2. Think realistically. Ask yourself if you’re asking for too much, or if the person is truly capable of making this change.
  3. Set the bottom line and hold it. Be clear when communicating your limits, and be strong in enforcing them.
  4. Let others set boundaries, too. When you communicate your limits, respect the person’s point of view, resist the temptation to get defensive, and consider what they need from you.
  5. Anticipate change. Setting boundaries can alter your relationship, so be prepared and offer the person time and space to process this new way of interacting.
  6. Ask someone else to hold you accountable. Holding the line can be difficult, so find someone to back you up and keep you in check.

Want Help Setting Boundaries?

As a VEBA member, you have access to Optum Dedicated Consultants through the VEBA Resource Center. This Optum partnership allows you to receive assistance quickly for a variety of issues — from stress and relationship issues to communication strategies and beyond. This is a no-cost service to VEBA beneficiaries only.

Appointments are available:

  • In-person at the VRC – Kearny Mesa location
  • Virtually by phone or video consultation

To schedule a consultation, click here.

Through Optum, you and your dependents can also schedule consultations through Emotional Wellbeing Solutions. Please note: you may experience longer wait times with this option. To schedule an appointment through Optum directly, call 888-625-4809 or visit (Access Code: VEBA).

Thank you to our content partners at Sharp HealthCare and Healthwise.