This is an excerpt from Your Heart, Your Life by Morag Thow,Keri GrahamC & hoi Lee.
Coping With Negative Feelings and Stress
In years gone by, medicine focused on physical health only, but now scientists know that emotions, thoughts and feelings affect how well the body functions. A positive mental attitude is now accepted as important in recovering from any health problem and living a healthy life. This doesn’t mean that your thoughts must be positive all the time. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, scared, stressed or overwhelmed at times. It’s important that you acknowledge how you are feeling, get support and move forwards in your recovery emotionally and physically. It’s about getting involved in healing your body, increasing your resilience by being optimistic and believing in a positive future.
When you feel worried, tense, scared, angry or stressed, it’s usually because a negative thought has increased the amount of stress hormones in your body (adrenaline and cortisol). A rise in adrenaline increases heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, artery wall inflammation and blood clotting. When you’re stressed, your muscles tense and your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. This isn’t bad or dangerous; in fact, it’s completely normal and happens to everyone. The only problem is that it doesn’t feel good, and if you have recently had a heart attack or have a lot of worrying and stressful things happening in your life, these negative feelings and high adrenaline levels can be persistent and can last a long time, which can affect your recovery and your future health.
Too much negativity and not coping well with stress affect behaviour. People who are always worried, angry or tense and people who are not coping well with stress tend to reach for the unhealthy behaviour that they think will give them comfort such as cigarettes, high-fat foods, alcohol or inactivity. Therefore, for the health of your heart and for your general health, try to stop negative feelings from becoming overwhelming and regularly make time for the things that help you to relax.
Table 3.5 has some common negative and positive thoughts that can occur after having a heart event. Read them and pay attention to how they make you feel. Negative thoughts are in the back of your mind all the time. When you’re worried, stressed, afraid or irritable, the negative thoughts are more prominent. And the vicious cycle continues: negative thought, adrenaline, negative thought, adrenaline.
Try to be aware of your negative thoughts and change your focus to being more positive. Switch the adrenaline off and help your recovery and your future health. Read the positive thoughts in table 3.5 regularly to keep you on track and make time for the things that help you to relax.
This chapter has presented the unhealthy lifestyle choices that can lead to CHD. This information is a lot to think about and may seem overwhelming at first. However, the following chapters provide straightforward information to help you increase your knowledge and build your confidence so that you can adopt a healthy lifestyle in a way that works for you—one step at a time.
Read more from The Healthy Heart Book by Morag Thow, Keri Graham, and Choi Lee.