DEALING WITH STRESS AFTER A HEART ATTACK

DEALING WITH STRESS AFTER A CARDIAC EVENT

One of the keys to getting back to normal after a cardiac event is finding the right balance between stimulation (being busy) and relaxation.

Learning to relax and ignore irrelevant stimuli during quieter times and learning to not always to rush on to the next thing.   Having a heart attack can often leave you feeling out of control, suffering from anxiety and feeling low.   All those emotions are perfectly normal and will over time ease as you learn how to cope with the everyday stresses that arise.  It is worth taking time out to relax and this will enable you to lead a more balanced and peaceful life.

Everyone will react in a slightly different way to the same stimulus.   For one person it could make them cry, another may get very angry, another may feel very afraid and for another no reaction at all!

Recovering from a heart problem takes times and you may feel you are on an emotional roller-coaster.   You may experience a number of emotional reactions including:-

SHOCK – this is an early reaction and you may feel numb about things going on around you and you may also find it difficult to concentrate and take things in.

DENIAL – some people’s reactions can be to deny that the the problem has happened.  This can help in the immediate situation, in that by denying it we feel we can cope with the turmoil going on around us.  It is very important to learn to accept the situation and find out what can be done to improve things for the future.   Having a heart problem can be thought of as a negative thing, but there are many positive steps that can be done to aid recovery.  Many who have been through this experience will tell you that there is ” a rich life after a heart attack” and it can be of a better quality than before.

FEAR – can be as a result of feeling out of control.  These feeling will subside as you begin to understand what has happened and how you can take control again.

ANGER it is possible to feel anger at hospital staff, family and friends. Along with that is also the feeling of guilt.   Talking to those around you will be very beneficial, being open and honest about how you are feeling.

DEPRESSION this is extremely common after any life changing experience.  Symptoms include loss of appetite, por sleeping patterns, lost of interest in the outside world.   Some find that they are weepy for no apparent reason.   There is no shame in crying and it can often be a way of releasing emotional tension.   If feelings of depression continue, then go and speak with your Doctor.

ACCEPTANCE of what has happened is the stage at which you will find that you can move forward.  Your life will have changed but it can be both happy and rewarding.

Part of the different way we perceive and react to the same situation is related to our personality.   There have been identified different types of personality but the two main personality types are known as Type A and Type B.  These two particular ones are the more commonly talked about.    Type A’s are the go getters, time conscious, impatient people, whereas Type B’s are very laid back.    We are all in some way a mixture of both types but the A’s have the potential to suffer from higher levels of stress.

So What Type Are You? Take the quiz and see.

Give yourself 2 marks for “just like me”,

1 mark for “sometimes” and 0 for “not at all like me”.

.       I often feel rushed

.       I bottle up or hide my feelings

.       I walk fast

.       I eat quickly

.       I am competitive

.       I finish people’s sentences for them

.       I talk fast

.       I am impatient

.       I look ahead to see what the next thing is that needs doing

.       I try and do more than one thing at a time

Max Score 20 -  The higher the score the more type A you are.

It is often the feeling that things are out of control, or the feelings of being unable to cope that raises our stress levels.

The body’s reaction to danger is to pump lots of adrenaline into the blood stream which causes the heart to beat faster, the blood pressure to rise, and the stomach stops digesting, which is why some people get “butterflies” in their stomach.   This sets up a chain reaction of events in our bodies sending more oxygen to our muscles, and increases the rate at which we breathe.   This then makes us ready to react quickly – it is known as the “flight or fight syndrome.    This is a normal response to a dangerous situation, and is also the body’s normal response to physical activity – exercise and is the way we were designed to use up the adrenaline.

Being under stress, or living with high levels of stress in your life but doing no physical activity will provoke the same bodily response as described earlier.     If you are constantly living your life with high stress levels this can lead on to other health problems such as coronary heart disease, ulcers, cancers, migraine, headaches, back and neck pain to mention a few.

Your body and mind are constantly sending messages to each other.    If you are feeling under pressure, the body becomes tense, and the mind will also respond with negative thoughts and feelings.   This can then form a pattern of behaviour and start a chain reaction.  As a result people can suffer from depression and/or panic attacks.

By deliberately quietening and stilling your body, you are telling your brain that things are not that bad.    Similarly, if you are constantly telling yourself through your internal dialogue, or getting negative feedback from people that you are inadequate,  can’t cope,  or afraid, then the alarm button is pushed in your brain and the body starts to respond by pumping adrenaline into the blood stream.      This mind/body dialogue can result in a vicious circle of stress being placed upon stress.

So What Can I Do?

Learn to recognise when the stress levels are going up.   Try and break the cycle by using some of the following:

1.     Sit down somewhere quiet and close your eyes.   Think of a warm, safe and restful place and imagine yourself there, breathe slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth, in a calm and relaxed manner.

2.   Listen to some relaxing music, again breathing in through the nose.

3.   Change what you are saying to yourself, we continually through the day talk to ourselves, and if we are always being negative then our outlook will be negative.   That constant negative self talk that you listen to all day will be filling your mind and will then affect how you feel.  Your mind can give you physical symptoms.    Think of it like  changing the radio station or CD.   Try and fill your mind with positive thoughts.  If you find yourself being negative stop yourself there and then and think of something positive.

4.      Try and distract yourself – take a bath, read a book.

5.     Ring /talk to a close friend – don’t bottle it up.

Sometimes none of the above helps.     If you are so wound up that the thought of sitting still, or being quiet would make you scream then this is then the time for ACTION.   Physical activity can help to use the adrenaline that is causing the stress levels to rise and will not only help to ease the stress but uses this extra adrenaline in a positive way.  Go for a walk, breathe deeply.

If you find that having tried the above and you are not seeing any improvements then always seek the advice of your GP.

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