Women who practice self-compassion have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, irrespective of their blood pressure, insulin resistance and cholesterol levels, according to new research.
The US study of 200 women aged between 45 and 67 by the University of Pittsburgh found that those who scored higher on the self-compassion scale had thinner carotid artery walls and less plaque build up conditions linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes).
The results persisted, regardless of other common lifestyle psychological factors associated with heart disease such as smoking, depressive symptoms and minimal exercise.
"These findings underscore the importance of practising kindness and compassion, particularly towards yourself," said Rebecca Thurston, professor of psychiatry, clinical and translational science, epidemiology and psychology at Pittsburgh University.
"We are all living through extraordinarily stressful times and our research suggests that self-compassion is essential for both our mental and physical health," she added.
Another study shows self-affirmations are also conducive to better mental health and less self judgement.
SA integrative health coach, Laura Johnston, said the pandemic had amplified stress for women, highlighting the importance of more considered self-care, including diet, supplements, and quality alone time.
“Self-care is learning to prioritise your physical and mental health. Feed yourself nutritious and healthy food and select high quality supplements such as Felix, with saffron, which helps support cravings and enhances mood, sleep and cognitive health and Purest Omega which delivers a potent dose of healthy EPA and DHA fatty acids to promote brain and heart health.”
Some studies have found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements may lessen the effects of mental stress, such as increased heart rate and nervous activity, while saffron contains compounds known as lepticrosalides, such as safranal and crocin, that may have an antidepressant effect by possibly inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.
Other foods may help reduce stress and anxiety:
Foods high in B vitamins can help with the metabolism of cortisol (beef, chicken, eggs, fortified cereal and nutritional yeast).
Magnesium rich foods help to relax the body and mind, reducing inflammation and metabolizing cortisol in the body (avocados, bananas, broccoli, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds and spinach).
Foods rich in protein contain amino acids that help produce key neurotransmitters in preventing and treating anxiety and depression (almonds, chicken breast, eggs, lean beef, lentils, peanuts, quinoa, tuna, salmon and shrimp).
It is believed that regulating the gut microbiome (good and bad bacteria in the gut) may ease anxiety as the brain and the gastrointestinal system are closely connected. Certain foods may help to regulate and promote good gut health (greek yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut).
Follow these healthy tips to reduce your stress levels:
Any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever, no matter how fit or unfit you are. Physical activity increases the release of endorphins which helps to enhance your sense of wellbeing. Activities such as walking, jogging, gardening, house cleaning, biking, swimming or weight lifting can help to refocus your mind on your body's movements providing a good stress reliever.
Eat a healthy diet:
Incorporating a variety of fruit and vegetables and whole grains in your diet will help to provide essential nutrients for your body to absorb and utilize to provide support in stressful situations.
Avoid unhealthy habits:
Unhealthy habits such as alcohol consumption, smoking, overeating and using illegal substances are habits that can harm your health and should not be used as a coping mechanism to deal with stress.
Meditation can help to restore a sense of peace, calm and balance to your mind and provide stress relief. Guided meditation, guided imagery and visualization are some of the forms of meditation that can be practised anywhere. Deep breathing is often a technique used in meditation to bring a sense of relaxation.
A good sense of humour can lighten your mood and help you to feel better. Laughter aids in calming down your stress response and influencing positive changes within your body.
Connect with others:
Social connection with others can help to provide support and offer a distraction from current stressful issues. Being isolated when stressed is often the choice made but in the long term, this does not provide any benefit to your stress load.
Learning to say no and delegating work can help manage your stress load as it takes off the extra pressure of a busy schedule and allows you to plan better and prioritize your needs.
Yoga involves controlled breathing exercises, which helps to achieve peacefulness of body and mind and provides relief from stress and anxiety. Hatha yoga is a good stress reliever as it is a slower pace with easier movements.
Get enough sleep:
The quality and amount of sleep you get can affect your mood, energy level, concentration and overall functioning. Although too much stress can make it difficult to sleep, it is important to create a good sleeping routine that can help you to relax.
Keep a journal:
Keeping a journal and writing down your thoughts, can help to release any built up emotions and reflect on how you feel, therefore providing a form of stress relief and comfort.
Get musical and be creative:
Listening to or playing music is a good stress reliever because it can provide a mental distraction, reduce muscle tension and decrease stress hormones. Other hobbies such as gardening, sewing and sketching etc., can also provide another focus other than stress.
If stress becomes too overwhelming to cope with (excessive worrying, trouble carrying out daily routines or meeting responsibilities at work, home or school) and self-help tools are not working, it is recommended to seek help from a trained professional such as professional counsellors or therapists who can help you identify sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.
Article supplied by Coyne Healthcare