I’m obsessed with my blood pressure. Can I work my way out of high readings? | Emma Beddington

I don’t worry about my health. It’s a lack of imagination, I think, and I’m busy worrying whether I’m using too many exclamation points in emails and other important things. The last time I saw my GP my blood pressure was high, but that wasn’t surprising as it was debilitating anxiety that got me there. When I went back several months later to do a self-check in a small booth in the waiting room, I assumed everything would be back to normal. My first read was in the ‘possibly dying, don’t leave surgery’ zone; the second and third went to “come back tomorrow so we can make sure you don’t die”. Then I had to leave the stand because there was a queue.

Since then I have been in a spiral. Not in health anxiety – I’m still not convinced that my regimen of sedentary living, self-induced stress and enough salt to drop a snail army is fundamentally problematic – but in a stupid but entertaining obsession with my blood pressure. Can I get out of high readings without making any lifestyle changes? I threw out the household blood pressure monitor (not my purchase) in my office to experiment. Would breathing exercises lower it (research has shown show that they can do that)? How about a walk through the garden (research suggests interacting with nature can help)? A little yoga (yes, also supported by research) or classical music (that can work too)?

You may think you know where this is going – I’m accidentally improving my health by gaming blood pressure monitoring – but no. The results so far show no pattern at all (and before anyone really starts to worry, all my measurements were normal: I assume I originally succumbed to white coat hypertension, despite no white coat being involved). My lowest recent reading came in the anxious half-hour before an interview; my highest after doing corpse pose in yoga. Every time I think, “Ooh, I’m nice and relaxed,” and lo and behold, it’s on the high side. What is going on? Either I have no self-knowledge whatsoever, or the monitor is defective. Both very likely.

Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist