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How to respond to stress and improve your health

Jennifer Wilson O’Raghallaigh

Clinical Psychologist

The link between how stress affects long term high blood pressure is still being researched. Jennifer Wilson O’Raghallaigh, Clinical Psychologist says it’s the way we manage it that counts.

Stress affects our decision-making, which can affect our stress…

The direct relationship between long-term stress and blood pressure is still very much an area of ongoing research. The dangers to our health often come from the decisions we make when under stress. “Our levels of stress affects our behaviour and then our behaviour is affecting our blood pressure,” says Wilson O’Raghallaigh.

So what can we do to manage our stress better and improve our lifestyle?

Prioritise self-care

“The very first part of stress management is waking up to the role stress is playing in our lives. We must begin to prioritise caring for ourselves in the same way we prioritise productivity,” says Wilson O’Raghallaigh.

Train how to relax

Having gained awareness of your own stress levels, managing the body to come down from the stress response is beneficial. “Relaxation, breathing exercises and meditation can make a big difference in reducing chronic stress.”

Exercise regularly

“Exercise is a massive stress buster. Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity a day, five days a week makes a huge difference in health and stress levels.”

Lifestyle change & support groups

Maintaining a healthy diet – and not engaging in maladaptive self-soothing behaviours such as alcohol and smoking – is important for sustainable stress management. However, implementing change can be problematic.

“It’s very difficult to change behaviour. People feel they need to achieve change all by themselves, but getting involved with support classes and/or exercise groups is really important.”

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