Guilt and blood pressure – feeling down when your BP is up
You got your lab results back from your clinic and you’re not as healthy as you thought you were. Your blood pressure has not come down and your cholesterol remains high.
So you sit in front of the computer screen, feeling helpless and not sure how to move forward. Maybe you’ve already attempted some of the “go to” recommendations — reduce salt, walk 10,000 steps/day, cut smoking — but nothing sticks for very long. Maybe your spouse writes “healthy reminders” on the refrigerator door — still no real impact.
So you ask yourself what you are doing wrong? What could you have done better in the past? Should you eat salmon and quinoa twice a week like you read in the health magazines? Should you give up your gaming console that keeps your butt glued to the couch? You ask yourself all of these questions, but all they do is lead you to feel guilty about the state of your health. And the guilt sucks.
Is it your fault you have risk of heart disease?
Like many painful emotions, guilt can actually be important to our well-being. It’s a way of recognizing that we have not lived up to our own (or others) values and standards. As a short term emotion, it can be adaptive and induce positive change. However feeling guilty all the time – chronic guilt – is not productive and can lead to chronic stress. Anything that stresses your body over a long period of time will increase your blood pressure. In other words, if you have problems with your heart health – blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes – those problems are only magnified when you constantly feel guilty about them.
I would argue that, given the stresses of today’s society, modern advertising and family heredity, it really isn’t your fault if you are at risk of heart disease. The outside factors can be impossible to control. The only fault would be if you allow your guilt to get out of control and don’t use the tools that make it easy to take control of your health.
So how do you cut the guilt? We offer some insights and tips to help you and for you to help yourself.
Guilt affects us both mentally and physically
First, understand that guilt just pervades our mental space. Guilt dampens our self-confidence and prevents us from doing the things that we want to do. Chronic guilt can lead to anxiety, and anxiety itself can cause a lot of stress-related health issues in the long term.
Your negative emotions trickle into the physiological function of the human body and sometimes physical symptoms manifest to match these negative emotions. These can include ulcers and headaches, among other physical symptoms that may not seem related at all.
Importantly, guilt has also been shown to increase cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that triggers your body’s “fight or flight” response. Although cortisol is great when we’re fighting off a potential threat, constant exposure to cortisol can increase blood pressure and your risk of heart disease, diabetes, lowered immunity, and other long-term conditions.
Regardless of how guilt displays itself in your physical health, over time these symptoms from negative emotions can become chronic and impact the longer trajectory of your health.
Blood pressure is a good indicator of your stress levels
Blood pressure is one the first things that changes when we become stressed. As mentioned above, various stress hormones like cortisol can increase blood pressure. This happens practically immediately after stress is experienced.
When someone is in continual stress, continual release of stress hormones keep blood pressure higher than normal, which is not healthy for either our mind or our bodies. This makes any pre-existing hypertension even worse.
It’s all a vicious cycle, and it’s up to you to break it!
First step to becoming healthy – stop the internal guilt trip
Whether you’ve already begun the journey to self-care or just starting to read about it online in this article, just remember to give yourself the time and the space that you need to manage stress.
This is unique to everyone. Some people find that doing yoga or exercising helps them, and others would prefer getting a massage or traveling to scenic spots to watch the sunset. Whatever it is that improves your mood and lifts your spirits, do that. Support yourself and your desire to take charge again.
Know that you’re not alone in this process. In fact, your personal health care app can be found right on your own phone (or your Apple Watch).
Since blood pressure is one of the simplest ways to keep track of your health, the Hello Heart team developed a versatile and easy-to-use app to keep track of your blood pressure (iOS, Android). We want to support you in your initiative of the healing process and we hope that you’ll take full advantage.
Hello Heart is your free personal health care app that can help you find your balance at your own pace.
Take it one step at a time. Download the Hello Heart app (iOS, Android) today and reclaim your full potential! You shouldn’t feel any guilt about where you’re at right now – the only fault you’ll have is from missing out on using the tools that you have at your fingertips right now.