Techniques to Reduce Stress/Anxiety and Manage Blood Pressure

Photo by Vlada Karpovich: https://www.pexels.com/photo/8939961/

Written by KURA Writer- Tiffany Chin

Stress or anxiety is a contributing factor in elevating blood pressure. One way to help manage stress or anxiety levels is with paced breathing. Paced breathing is a relaxation technique where the individual lowers his/her respiratory rate from the typical 12–16 breaths per minute to around 6 breaths per minute, for about 15 minutes a day (Larson et al., 2020). By doing so, it allows for the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (the mechanism responsible for relaxing the body) to activate and dilate the blood vessels, resulting in decreased blood pressure (Brenner et al., 2020). Performing paced breathing exercises every day may be difficult for some people, so having another person or a device to remind and coach you through it will be beneficial in helping you reach your goals (Cernes & Zimlichman, 2017).

Using devices, such as phone apps, to practice guided meditation is also a good way to reduce stress or anxiety and lower blood pressure. In a study published in 2019, participants were randomized into two groups: one where they were instructed to download an app about mindfulness and watch one 10–20 minute video each day and the other where participants received a link to a website where they could get advice about their stress. The study indicated that those who used the phone app for guided meditation, saw a significant reduction in stress, improvement in well-being, and an association with decreased blood pressure (Bostock et al., 2020). Another study’s results demonstrated that using a phone app for guided meditation for as little as 5 or 10 minutes twice a day, helped with lowering blood pressure and had greater adherence than those practicing guided meditation for 15 minutes twice a day (Adams et al., 2018). Therefore, spending even a small amount of time but regularly on meditation will benefit one’s blood pressure management.

Adams, Z. W., Sieverdes, J. C., Brunner-Jackson, B., Mueller, M., Chandler, J., Diaz, V., Patel, S., Sox, L. R., Wilder, S., & Treiber, F. A. (2018). Meditation smartphone application effects on prehypertensive adults’ blood pressure: Dose-response feasibility trial. Health Psychology, 37(9), 850–860. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000584

Bostock, S., Crosswell, A. D., Prather, A. A., & Steptoe, A. (2019). Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. Journal of occupational health psychology, 24(1), 127–138. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000118

Brenner, J., LeBlang, S., Lizotte-Waniewski, M., Schmidt, B., Espinosa, P. S., DeMets, D. L., Newberg, A., & Hennekens, C. H. (2020). Mindfulness with paced breathing reduces blood pressure. Medical hypotheses, 142, 109780. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2020.109780

Cernes, R., & Zimlichman, R. (2017). Role of Paced Breathing for Treatment of Hypertension. Current hypertension reports, 19(6), 45. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11906-017-0742-1

Larson, M., Chantigian, D. P., Asirvatham-Jeyaraj, N., Van de Winckel, A., & Keller-Ross, M. L. (2020). Slow-Paced Breathing and Autonomic Function in People Post-stroke. Frontiers in physiology, 11, 573325. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2020.573325

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