Crystal Garland
September 27, 2016 10:10 am

I consider myself a fairly healthy person. I enjoy a cupcake (okay, two) as much as the next person, but also love catching my zzz’s and going for a hike in the canyons. Imagine my surprise, then, when I was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure.

A diet cleanup was a given so I stocked up on produce, whole grains and lean protein. But I knew in order to get my blood pressure down, I would have to address my propensity for stress.

Now’s a good time to tell you I am not a doctor and so my words don’t substitute for a professional opinion. If you think you may be facing any health challenge, be sure to visit a medical professional for expert guidance tailored just for you.

In the meantime, here’s what my diagnosis has taught me:

Realize what’s happening “outside,” may not reflect what’s happening “inside.”

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When I learned about my blood pressure, my body was toning all over and I was finally mastering moves in my pole dancing classes (finally – upper body strength!). But, I was also dealing with several personal challenges which constantly left me drained and despondent. No matter how healthy you think you are, it’s always a good idea to schedule regular checkups with your doctor. Nothing beats knowing, and the sooner you identify an issue, the sooner you and your doctor can begin a treatment plan.

Understand you don’t have to hold everything in.

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When I receive troubling news, I immediately want to talk it over with a good friend. But schedules and busy lives may not accommodate and it’s easy to just internalize instead. Still, that doesn’t mean we have to carry the weight of our experiences alone. I’ve found therapy to be a safe space to discuss literally any issue in a constructive way.

If you’re curious but not quite committed to the idea, there are short-term measures to help you test it out: local counseling centers offer walk-in hours, national and local nonprofits may offer virtual and talk hotlines, and your employer’s insurance plan may provide several free or low-cost therapist visits.

Make self-care a priority.

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Living in a perpetual state of “fight or flight” can lead to adverse affects on nearly every part of our body. Digestive issues, migraines, and respiratory problems are just some of the ways our body bears the toll of stress. The good news is there are endless self-care methods to help us win the battle: meditation, dancing, positive self-talk, gratitude journals, a good night’s sleep, hobbies, and spa days are just a few of the healthy, affirming acts we can utilize to find more peace in our days.

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