Healthy Ways to Cope With Stress
Last updated: July 2021
I think it's clear by now, at least for those of us within the heart failure community, that stress is not good for those of us with heart disease. I hear people within the community talking about reducing stress, but how exactly do you do this especially when everyone has stress?! It can be very hard to avoid stressful situations.
One thing I have personally tried is preventing high-stress situations. I have attempted to do this by balancing my life out. For example, using a pillbox to set out pills for multiple days and sticking it in my purse so I'm not worried about forgetting my medicine in the morning rush.
If there are things I need put them by the door. I try to avoid being late. Also, slowing down during the day with breathing exercises or taking a short walk around the office during lunch with colleagues during the day has helped.
Humor and positive thinking
I also always try to keep my sense of humor; remembering to laugh instead of cry. In fact, research has shown that positive thinking is correlated with a lower risk of heart attack among those with stable heart disease.1 By positive thinking I am referring to trying to see the bright side in tough situations.
Three more tips
The American Heart Association has three other tips that I found intriguing!2
Positive self-talk can include things like 'I can do this' and 'I can cope' and negative can include 'I will never improve' or 'I can't do this.' Negative self-talk increases stress. I've tried this and personally, it has helped me. It may sound silly, but give it a chance! The benefit to this strategy is that you can do it wherever you want - in the car, in a cubicle, in a doctor's office, etc.
Here are some examples of negative self-talk to positive: "I can't do this," to "I'll do the best I can. I’ve got this." "Everything is going wrong," to "I can handle this if I take one step at a time." "I hate it when this happens," to "I know how to deal with this; I've done it before." "I feel helpless and alone," to "I can reach out and get help if I need it."
Coping in the moment
How do you cope with stress in the moment? Some ideas are counting to 10 before you speak, take three to five deep breaths, walking away from the stressful situation for a few minutes to think it over, listening to relaxing music, and if it's not urgent, sleeping on it and respond tomorrow, etc. The last one works best for emails and voice mails.
Try to enjoy your daily activities
We all have things that we enjoy, and if you have not identified those yet I'd recommend doing so. It's important to know what brings us joy and to try and find that on a regular basis. What is that for you? Is it making art, taking a nature walk (if you can), watching old movies, reading, listening to music, etc.? Doing things we enjoy is a natural stress buster,
Start a plan
I hope that these tips help. If they did, start a plan! Write down what you will do and the frequency it will be done in. As far as positive self-talk goes, you got this my heart failure friends!
Besides heart failure, do you have any other chronic medical conditions?
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