What Does Worrying Do?

Last updated: November 2023

The one mantra that I have found that helps manage the anxiety and unknowns that come with congestive heart failure (CHF) is the idea of living in the moment. Has anyone else tried to adopt this mantra of living day to day?

While the future is so unknown, what I know for sure is how I am feeling TODAY! However, in my quest for living in the moment (and thus peace and happiness), one thing that can really get in the way is worrying.

It makes sense given the many many unknowns of the clinical trajectory of heart failure, however I find it really does get in the way of living in the moment. If anyone else feels the same way, I have figured out a few ways to deal with the worrying which has helped me. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about this topic in case this might help others!

What is the purpose of worrying?

First let's back up. What purpose does worrying have in our lives? Does it help us accomplish anything?

When I thought about it, I realized that worrying partly serves a positive purpose - it helps me be proactive and propel action. For example, I am not sure I would be able to make the sacrifices of a low sodium diet unless I was worried. However, there comes a point (in my opinion) where worrying is like being in a rocking chair. You can rock and rock but you end up in the same place.

Less positively, I think that worrying can also serve as a way for me, and perhaps other heart failure patients, to protect ourselves. I think this is where the worrying ceases to be helpful and where a reorientation in my thinking has been useful in managing worrying about the future.

Is worrying helping me in my heart failure journey?

I say orientation regarding my thinking because when I thought about this protection mechanism, the major fallacy me (and my therapist) came up with is a false assumption that I know what the future holds. And the reality is that I do not!

I know that my heart function will eventually go down. The test shows that the medicines I am on to prevent enlargement of my heart are not working; i.e. portions of my heart are enlarging with every beat. My current ejection fraction (EF) is not sustainable over the long term. We know that, but the specifics we do not know!

We do not know when this will happen, as an example. The worrying makes sense to a point, but it has been helpful to realize that not all "what-if's" that my worries are based on are set in stone. For instance, what if I only have a few years left with my EF as it is? I might, but I might have more then a few years. We just do not know.

Is worrying always worth the energy it takes?

The other thing to realize is that worrying takes energy, and if the idea is to try and live life to its fullest and without regret, will I look back and regret the energy wasted in a rocking chair going nowhere?

As heart failure patients we know that energy is precious! It is worth being methodical and ruthless in managing how we use our energy. Even if the worst case scenario does come true, are we going to regret the time that we spent planning for it?

Just some food for thought as we all navigate this rough road!

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