Aside from the genetic explanation, I could say that I have no idea why I tend to have high blood pressure. I exercise regularly, eat conscientiously, and maintain a 'healthy' weight, so I've got three of the risk factors knocked down.
But I am also a stressed out person in a stressed out world. And managing stress is right up there with diet and exercise for managing high blood pressure.
Just thinking about how to reduce stress used to stress me out more. For example, yoga is excellent for both mental and physical balance, but when did I have time to work a 30 minute session into an already jam-packed daily schedule?
More on that later.
Still, unless you are some kind of Zen master, your blood pressure will go up when you are in a stressful situation. So if your life is generally stressful without much chance to ease up and relax and you have hypertension, just DASH dieting and exercise may not be enough. Sure, there are big lifestyle changes that would lower stress, but practically speaking, that’s not an option for most of us. What can you do?
I don’t remember where I first got the idea, but at some point I started working in mini-breaks during the day to break up the tension. Because I work a full time+ intense++ job with two kids under 6 and a frustrating commute – I’m running on high most of the day. The mini breaks make a big difference.
One of my favorite daily min-breaks is singing in the car. Usually it’s Sirius XM Radio’s FLY, Heart & Soul, or 1st Wave, but sometimes I go to my running playlist, or the 80s station. I have no shame singing at the top of my lungs and dancing in my seat. I’m sure I attract some attention, but hopefully it is never the law enforcement kind, because the only rules I am breaking are pitch and voice quality. My kids aren’t old enough to be embarrassed, though they do try to shut me up if one of their favorite songs comes on (for my daughter, that’s Frank Ocean’s “Pink + White” and for my son it’s “Monster Truck” (he’s 2)).
Grinding through slow moving traffic at 10 MPH for a 7 mile commute used to just-wear-my-last-nerve, but not so much anymore. I’m usually smiling, my kids aren’t cranky, and if Beyonce’s “Freedom” just happens to be the last song I hear before getting to my job, then it’s a perfect start to the day.