Stress

 

People who live with a chronic condition such as cardiomyopathy can experience stress when coming to terms with their diagnosis, living with the condition, and dealing with any changes to their condition.

Day-to-day frustrations such as traffic jams or noisy neighbours, as well as significant life changes such as moving house, redundancy, having a long-term health issue such as cardiomyopathy, or constant financial worries can all contribute to our stress levels.

Too much stress, or stress which lasts too long, can lead to emotional, psychological and even physical problems. Excessive pressure can lead to a build-up of stress, which can make us less efficient and poor at making decisions, and could lead to more ill health.

Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress, a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain and problems with sleeping.

If you feel stressed it may help to

Talk to someone about your feelings. This can help you recognise what is causing your stress, which is a positive step. Speak to your GP. He or she may suggest that you try some self-help techniques, such as exercise, or may recommend other treatments, such as a talking therapy (counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy or anger management)

Speak to one of our key contacts or make contact with one of our support groups. Cardiomyopathy UK has a well-established network of both key contacts and support groups who are an invaluable source of support and information. You can meet or talk with people who are similarly affected by cardiomyopathy and share the experiences and stresses of living with the condition.

Your GP may recommend medication if your stress is causing other health problems such as depression and anxiety. Medication can offer relief in the short term but are not a cure for stress.

You could also try:

Relaxation, such as deep breathing

This can help you calm down and take a step back from a stressful situation. Relaxation techniques may not get rid of the cause of your stress but you will probably feel more able to deal with it once you have released the tension in your body and cleared your thoughts.

Talk things through with a friend or work colleague 

This can help you find solutions to your stress and put problems into perspective. Stress can be triggered by a problem that may on the surface seem impossible to solve. Learning how to find solutions to your problems will help you feel more in control, thereby lowering your stress.

One problem-solving technique involves writing down the problem and coming up with as many possible solutions as you can. Decide on the good and bad points of each one and select the best solution. Write down each step that you need to do as part of the solution: what will be done, how will it be done, when will it be done, who is involved and where will it take place.

Eating healthy meals at regular times and not skipping meals

This can make a big difference to your ability to deal with stress. Regular mealtimes allow your body to release a steady stream of energy throughout the day, which will improve your concentration and mood.

Try to reduce the amount of coffee, tea and cola that you drink.

These all contain caffeine, which can drive up stress levels if you have too much. Replace with caffeine-free varieties and try to drink six to eight glasses of water a day. Avoid sugary soft drinks. Alcohol, just like smoking and comfort eating, is an unhealthy coping mechanism that will not solve your problems and may simply create new ones.

Exercise

This will not make your stress disappear, but it will help to take the sting out of your anxiety and help you to take a step back from a stressful situation.

Exercise is known to:

  • release a chemical called serotonin, which makes you feel happier and less stressed
  • improve circulation and prevent conditions such as a stroke and heart attack
  • allow you to take out your frustration and anger in a constructive way

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Cardiomyopathy support nurse Jane Grant explains how feeling stress is a normal part of life and advises on how to manage it