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Stress has not been proven to cause heart disease. However, when it begins to affect your health, e.g. tension pains in the neck or back, disturbed sleep or increased anxiety, stress can become a trigger for unhelpful behaviours such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating poorly and not getting enough physical activity.
These behaviours can increase your risk of heart disease. To make the necessary lifestyle changes that may reduce your risk of heart disease it is important to be well motivated and to learn to reduce, and control, the amount of stress in your life and to recognise if you are down or possibly depressed.
Stress and anxiety can affect people in many different ways, physically, emotionally and behaviourally. It's possible to mistake symptoms of anxiety for illness. Learning to recognise your symptoms will help you to control them and understand what is actually happening.
Ways that anxiety can affect you include:
The symptoms of panic do not mean that you are going mad. They do, however, make you more tired. Being anxious and tense is a serious drain on your energy. Once you have learned how to manage anxiety, you will find you have more energy for other things.
If you have lived with a high level of stress over a long period of time you may not be aware of being stressed or your inability to relax.
Keeping a diary of when you feel most stressed or hassled can be a start to understanding how you cope with stress. This will tell you what kind of situation makes you feel a certain way. It is also helpful to try and think about how you reacted in certain situations:
This is a very simple way of learning how to breathe normally and restore normal breathing when you are anxious.
It involves gentle breathing using the lower part of your chest and stomach, with the upper chest and shoulders relaxed.
Practising breathing control and relaxation techniques when you are feeling calm and relaxed will help you to cope with stressful situations when they arise. If you become confident about how to use these techniques, it will be much easier for you to use them when you actually need them.