Slow breathing and meditation are scientifically proven to reduce stress. Image created by openai.com
What are stress and anxiety, and is there a difference between them?
Stress regularly occurs in our daily life. It’s a normal reaction, that everyone experiences from time to time. Stress is a response to a demand or pressure, and it can be either positive (eustress) or negative (distress). It’s a normal part of life and can be beneficial in helping us to meet challenges and deadlines. However, excessive or prolonged stress can have negative effects on our physical and mental health.
Stress and anxiety are related but distinct concepts. Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can range in intensity from mild to severe. While stress is a response to a specific demand or pressure, anxiety is often a response to a perceived threat or danger. Anxiety can be a normal and healthy emotion, but when it becomes excessive or chronic, it can interfere with daily functioning and quality of life.
What are symptoms of anxiety and chronic stress?
For a long time or quite often, a person experiences:
- accelerated heartbeat
- feeling short of breath
- frequent urination
- problems with perception of information, forgetting words,
- sensation of sharpness and muscle tightness, muscle trembling,
increased irritability and tearfulness
- constant tension and worry about the future, etc.
It is important to note that stress and anxiety can often occur together, as stress can contribute to feelings of anxiety and anxiety can lead to stress. It is also possible to experience anxiety without experiencing stress or to experience stress without experiencing anxiety.
It is difficult to imagine a life without stress and anxiety, as we all are emotional and responsible creatures for our activities and loved ones. But with all this, should we be able just as easily say goodbye to such sensations as we meet them?
How do stress and anxiety affect our body?
When you feel uncomfortable about any situation, the “fight or flight” mode of your autonomic nervous system kicks in, increasing your heart rate. Stress hormones can disrupt heart rhythms, cause high blood pressure, and increase the risk of a heart attack.
Under the influence of stress neurotransmitters, a main agent of the vessels is affected - nitric oxide, which is produced in their walls. It is responsible for relaxing the vascular wall. Disrupted production of nitric oxide causes the narrowing of small blood vessels.
Blood flow comes there with resistance thus resulting in a steady rise in blood pressure in blood vessels.
In addition, without realising it, people may develop unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating junk food that supposedly helps them cope with stress and anxiety. But it's a “slippery slope” because these habits can also be detrimental to heart health.
Can anxiety and stress cause changes in the cardiovascular system ?
In people with a predisposition to hypertension or rhythm disturbances, such events, especially if they are regular, can lead to persistent increases in blood pressure or arrhythmias.
According to one research study , anxiety was widespread among 57% of people with hypertension. This result confirms the high prevalence of anxiety among patients with hypertension in different countries such as South Africa, China, and Argentina, thus showing the presence of hypertension anxiety despite cultural variability.
That is why it is important to know how your body reacts to stress and anxiety. As demands on an already resource-constrained health system increase, future prevention of heart conditions is likely to depend on monitoring of cardiovascular risk factors.
Using modern mobile applications, you will be able to clearly track patterns and detect long-term associations between different body indicators. This may provide you with timely help. Try our BreathNow app to easily track of your heart rate and blood pressure. It also includes relaxation tools like guided breathing and meditation.
How can we help ourselves reduce the negative impact of stress and anxiety on our body?
Reducing the frequency and intensity of stress and anxiety can help prevent temporary spikes in blood pressure. Chronic stress and anxiety can lead to long-term increases in blood pressure. By managing stress and anxiety, you can help prevent these long-term increases in blood pressure.
One of the ways to reduce the severity of anxiety is to dedicate certain times of the day to think through what is bothering you. You can write down your experiences in a notepad or on slips of paper and put them in a jar. This way they stop spinning in your head.
Simple breathing exercises and meditation can help manage anxiety and stress, such as taking slow, deep breaths can calm the body's response to stress. According to this scientific paper , the use of breathing techniques from 5 to 10 minutes per day significantly reduces blood pressure: by the end of the 6th week of the study, the participants noted a decrease in systolic blood pressure by 9 mmHg.
A 2020 review of 14 studies (including more than 1,100 participants) looked at the effects of mindfulness practices on blood pressure in people with conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or cancer. The analysis found that, in people with these conditions, mindfulness-based stress reduction practices were associated with significant reductions in blood pressure .
The use of a combination of cardiovascular tracking with breathing and meditation exercises in the same app holds great promise. Our BreathNow app will save your time looking for the right techniques and make you feel more energised and confident. By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can help lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health and well-being.
If your anxiety and high level of stress persist you should discuss these challenges with your healthcare provider.