How to Manage Sadness

As a heart failure patient, I have experienced periods of loss and sadness. Sometimes when I think I am 'over' something, a new area of loss pops up or something triggers me and I am back at it. Managing sadness is something I think us heart failure patients should be talking about, because it is not something our cardiac teams are trained to help us manage.

I wanted to share a few of my thoughts around managing sadness, and please add others if you have other ideas to share! I am not an expert, this is just how I have learned to cope and manage.

As a disclaimer, sadness and depression are not the same thing, and if you feel like you have clinical depression and/or your feelings of sadness are too much to handle, please seek the help of a licensed professional. Sometimes we also have to admit when we cannot, or should not, manage on our own!

Respecting emotions

In my experiences, I think the first thing when it comes to dealing with sadness is that pushing it away or minimizing it does not help. I think examining your self-talk is important, and if that self-talk includes ideas like, "I should not be feeling like this for ___ reason," or "it's really not a big deal because ___" this is not helpful. I think that our feelings deserve to be recognized and respected.

If you are sharing your feelings with others and they are dismissing your feelings, I would reconsider whether this is a person you want to utilize for emotional support. It may be somebody who you really really want to be able to be vulnerable with, but if they are invalidating your emotions, I would think about what is healthiest for you.

Allow yourself to feel sadness

Now that we have covered what, in my experiences, has not helped me - what does help? The first thing I would say is to be kind to yourself. This is not a time to beat yourself up. Let yourself feel sad.

Bottling up or ignoring your feelings is tempting, but I do not think it is a helpful strategy for the long term. This includes crying, by the way. I can also understand if you feel like you are cried out and/or simply want to move on. However, if you are feeling down and think you need a good cry, sometimes you just need to!

Self-care

Sleep and following doctors orders

Also, do not forget basic self-care like sleep and a healthy diet. Sometimes I find that eating a super healthy (nutrient packed) dinner actually makes me feel a bit better.

Along these lines, unhealthy coping mechanisms like ignoring medical diets and eating comfort foods, shopping sprees, drinking, etc., do not help me. They might temporarily blunt emotions, but inevitably they only make you feel worse in the long run, and as a heart failure patient this might cause long term damage. Especially as it pertains to compliance with doctor recommended diets and continuing to take all prescribed medications! Unfortunately, heart failure never goes on vacation...

Try healthier coping mechanisms

Instead, try to focus on healthy ways of soothing yourself like:

  • listening to music
  • being outside
  • spending time with good friends (who do not invalidate your feelings)
  • visiting a local museum
  • spending time with your pet
  • taking an art class or maybe trying outdoor yoga and making a new friend

Think about things that you can do that are healthy for you to help get you through, instead of resorting to things that are not healthy and cause more pain long-term.

Avoid self-isolation

Along those lines, I think self-isolating can also be very easy to do when you are sad and to an extent that may be part of your self-care. I would just caution people to be realistic about when getting out there and trying new things and/or meeting new people is a good idea.

Managing sadness within your heart failure journey

I understand that none of these suggestions deal with the loss that might be associated with your sadness. Unfortunately, I am still working on that myself. I will say though at least learning how to cope with the feelings of sadness, and using some of the strategies mentioned above might help ease your journey in finding peace.

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