Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Stress and Heart Health and Tips to Manage Stress

I haven't blogged much this month. In fact, after my "final" blog post on February 3rd, I hadn't planned on blogging again for the rest of the month. But some work I did for my Nutrition class led me to some information that I think would be of benefit to many of the people I love, including my future self, so I'd like to share the discussion board post I wrote about what the American Heart Association said about the links between Stress and Heart Health.

1. As I browsed the American Heart Association's website, heart.org, one item that caught my attention was the link between heart disease and Stress.

2. According to the American Heart Association, there are many ways in which stress can negatively affect heart health. The first ways they listed were indirect. Stress contributes to many poor health habits which, in turn, affect the heart. Some people smoke to reduce stress. Some people overeat or eat unhealthy food. Some people suffer through stress that disrupts their lives, leading them to not take their medications as prescribed or to not get enough physical activity or sleep. All of these effects of stress can be factors contributing to poor heart health, especially in combination with each other.

The American Heart Association also indicated how stress can affect heart health more directly. Stress raises blood pressure, which can increase the chance of rupturing arteries, especially those already weakened and constricted with fatty plaque deposits. The ruptured arteries can then clot and potentially clog, leading to heart attack or stroke. When compounded with poor health habits, some of which are encouraged by stress, stress can literally kill you.

Fortunately, the American Heart Association also provides helpful advice for how to reduce chronic stress. This advice includes practicing relaxation techniques and/or a stimulating hobby, getting sufficient exercise and rest, and spending time in nature and/or with family and friends. Unfortunately, much of this advice involves engaging in activities that can be disrupted by stress, which make the stress cycle difficult to break. Yet, framed more positively (another method of reducing stress), doing these activities will reduce our stress and will thus reduce the disruption that makes these activities difficult. The more we exercise, for example, the less stressed we'll be, making it less difficult for us to go and get our exercise. These activities can also be habit-forming, making them easier to maintain once we've managed to get started.

In the meantime, the American Heart Association's "3 Tips to Manage Stress" include their "Top 10 Emergency Stress-Stoppers." It's not the main focus of this discussion board post, but if you occasionally deal with high-stress situations, it might be worth a look. (Link)

Stress can be a vicious cycle, with stress and unhealthy habits contributing to more unhealthiness and more stress. When compounded with unhealthy eating (including stress eating), these bad habit can cause serious health issues, and even death. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce stress and the health issues it causes, and beginning that process can make it easier to continue. So, try to eat healthier, get more exercise, go outside, and do things you love with the ones you love, because those are all ways to live a happier, healthier, and less stressful life.

3. Source: "Stress and Heart Health," American Heart Association. (Link)


And, since I don't have to worry about length requirements or plagiarism here, I might as well share what the American Heart Assiciation's "Top 10 Emergency Stress-Stoppers" are, verbatim:

1. Count to 10 before you speak or react.

2. Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body un-clench a bit.

3. Go for a walk, even if it’s just to the restroom and back. It can give you a chance to think things through.

4. Try a quick meditation or prayer to get some perspective.

5. If it’s not urgent, sleep on it and respond tomorrow. This works especially well for stressful emails and social media trolls.

6. Walk away from the situation for a while, and handle it later once things have calmed down.

7. Break down big problems into smaller parts. Take one step at a time.

8. Turn on some chill music or an inspirational podcast to help you deal with road rage.

9. Take a break to pet the dog, hug a loved one or do something to help someone else.

10. Work out or do something active. Exercise is a great antidote for stress.

While I hope that you don't experience too much stress in your life, I know that some of you do, so I hope that this advice, taken from medical professionals, may be of some use to you. I'm sure that some of it will be of use to me. Stress is common and dangerous, especially in today's world, so I'm glad that we have experts who can warn us about such dangers and advise us on how we can overcome them.

Friday, February 3, 2023

What I Thought Was Right

Today, I took a driving test, but it took a turn for the worse for a reason that I didn't expect. I was asked to pull over in a residential area, the kind with rounded curbs. I typically use those curbs to help me align my right tires, to make sure I'm close enough to the sidewalk and not too far out in the street. This, however, was apparently the wrong thing to do. By using the curb as my guide, I "struck the curb," which is categorized as a "Critical Driving Error" and grounds for automatic failure. I did what I thought was right, but it turned out that I was wrong.

But you know what? Live and learn. All we can do is to do the best we can with the knowledge we have. And when we learn more and realize that we had been making mistakes, we try to correct our behavior and do what we think is right, based on the new knowledge we've gained.

We should all try to do what we think is right. I usually do, and for most of my life, I generally have. But we should all also be trying to deepen our understanding of what's right and what's wrong because there are times when what we thought was right turns out to be wrong and in need of correction.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Open Door

About a month ago, I visited another ward. My intention was to visit my sister's ward, but another ward was meeting in the same building at the same time, on the opposite side of the lobby. I ended up going to the other ward instead because, of the two chapels, only the other ward's chapel doors were open.

An open door is an invitation. It tells people that they are welcome to come and go as they please. Sure, on some level, I knew that I was welcome in my sister's ward as well. All I had to do was open the door myself.

And granted, I knew why the door was closed. They were doing their Sacrament. That wouldn't've been a good time to interrupt them. I'm sure there are good reasons to close the doors for a while. But it still left me wondering whether I should go in or go elsewhere, and that's not the kind of message I think we want to send. We want to let people know that our doors are always open, at least metaphorically.

In a song from Frozen, and in one of my favorite songs, there's a line that says that "Love is an open door." I hope the doors of our and God's love stay open so we can go through them, so we can visit each other, and so we can ultimately make our way back to God.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Bench Business - Why I'll Keep Blogging, Even After I Stop

I have almost completed 10 full years of blogging daily. I started this habit on February 3, 2013, and I'll end it on February 3, 2023. Granted, I may still blog occasionally, when I have a particularly blogworthy thought to share, but I don't intend to hold myself to the commitment of blogging daily.

Yet, without the commitment to blog about something every evening, I can imagine that I'll come to overlook moments that, while not completely blogworthy, are at least blogable and marginally worth sharing. Case in point, I was of some benefit to society this morning. I saw a problem (some business to do with one of the benches at a lightrail station), and while I couldn't solve the problem myself, I could report the problem to those who could solve it. My involvement was rather minor, but had no one reported the problem, it would have remained unreported for who knows how long. Granted, someone else would have reported the problem eventually if I hadn't, but if everyone had that attitude, no one would report such issues, let alone solve them. Sometimes, we need to step up, not because it's our responsibility or because we're especially qualified to step up, but because someone has to, and we just happened to be there when there was a problem to solve.

It was a minor event in my morning. I saw a problem, found a phone number, made a call, and went on my way. I would have completely forgotten about it in days, had I not had the obligation to blog about something.

Yet, that very experience taught me that people don't need to have an obligation in order to step up and do something that may be marginally helpful to someone. I had no obligation to report that issue, but I did it anyway, because it was a small thing I could do to contribute toward solving that problem. Soon, I will have no obligation to blog about anything, but I might anyway, because it's a small thing I can do to share thoughts that might be helpful.

I'll keep the blog bookmark in my browser, and I'll keep the blog tab open on my phone. And every so often, when I have something to blog about and a moment in which to do so, I just might. I won't blog because I have to or because I'm an especially brilliant blogger, but because I will occasionally have thoughts worth sharing, and I worry that they'll be lost forever if I don't.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

An Open and Critical Mind

The third chapter of one of my textbooks for this semester ends by extolling the virtue of having an open, yet critical mind. It's important to have a mind that's open to new ideas. Without such open minds, the Restoration could not have happened, and no one could actually investigate, let alone convert to, the church. Yet, we must also think critically. We must use logic and reason, experience and wisdom, honesty and truth. We must evaluate everything we read and hear, to do our part in helping God help us learn what's right and what's wrong.

I am trying to have an open and critical mind. I'm trying to listen to others sincerely and carefully, both to help me understand what they say and mean and to determine the truth of what they say and mean. As I've done so, I've felt the Spirit help me understand things that I wouldn't even have considered otherwise. I'm grateful to have learned truths that I never would have dreamed of,had I not had an open and critical mind.

Philosophical Stepping Stones

The other day, I and dozens of others heard my niece sing a line that I had once described as being so wrong that I could feel the wrongness as I typed it. My niece had the honor of playing Elsa in a junior production of Frozen (with surprisingly sophisticated special effects). As part of playing that role, she sang the famous song "Let It Go," including the line "No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I'm free." 

When Frozen was released, it faced a lot of backlash, especially directed at this song in particular, and I had been a part of that backlash. But I recently watched a video that caused me to rethink my view of "Let It Go" and of another Disney song, "Hakuna Matata." In a Cinema Therapy video, Jonathan Decker, licensed therapist who loves movies, spoke of both of those songs and how they represented a necessary, but necessarily-temporary philosophy for their respective characters. Simba needed to learn not to worry about his father's death when there was nothing he could do to fix the resulting problems, and Elsa needed to learn to let go of her fear of her ice magic after having repressed them so long. Neither character was entirely healthy in that space, and importantly, neither of them end their stories there, but they were both necessary steps toward a better, healthier place.

The same could possibly be said about some of the philosophies I currently hold. For instance, I'm currently learning about Stoicism, a more mature version of the better parts of the Hakuna Matata philosophy. Stoicism basically means to focus on that which is within your control and to let go of that which lies outside your control. The focus is on making good choices, not on hoping for good outcomes. I don't know whether this will be a good long-term philosophy, but at the very least, it's a step in the right direction.

Not all philosophies are meant to last forever. Some of them can be used as stepping stones to get you somewhere better. Embrace the philosophies that help you, but if a philosophy outlives its helpfulness and becomes more like a millstone or a crutch, it may be wise to be willing to "let it go."

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Make Time for Family

This evening, over dinner, I scheduled time to spend with some of my family members whom I don't get to see as often as I'd like. It almost feels weird to compare schedules and set a specific time to spend together, but sometimes, that's what it takes. We have busy lives. If we don't deliberately make time for the people who matter to us, that time will just slip away. I'm glad we scheduled a time to see each other. It's important to make time for family.