Dealing with Stress

21st November 2018

This article is taken from our October issue of My Life magazine. You can read the whole magazine here, or to subscribe to receive a free copy via email or post please sign up here.

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Having heart problems or seeing someone you care about cope with a heart problem can be stressful and there may be many ways in which stress can affect us.

These can manifest as physical symptoms such as a headache or stomach pains, or signs such as irritability, reduced concentration, excessive tiredness or disturbed sleep.

 In the longer term, stress can lead to low mood, low energy, low motivation or problems sleeping. It can also raise the risk of viral infections.

Stress can come from multiple sources; health problems - including a diagnosis of a heart condition - financial worries and worries about loss of control of your lifestyle, including work and relationships.

Wellbeing

When an individual feels stressed they may comfort eat, drink more alcohol or smoke. This change in behaviour may adversely affect your health and wellbeing. Noting these subtle changes in behaviour may be difficult, but could be an indicator of hidden stress affecting your lifestyle.

It is important to try to identify when you are feeling stressed and make changes in how you respond to stress if at all possible, as this may help to avoid more long-term effects of stress.

Exercising, maintaining a positive attitude, not smoking or drinking, enjoying a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are good ways to help deal with stress. Longer term, it is beneficial to try to deal with stress early on by adopting a healthier lifestyle and some stress management strategies, such as relaxation techniques or stress management classes. If you suffer from anxiety, you are advised to see your GP for further advice.

Helpline Nurses

Often, talking to someone can help reduce our stressful feelings. Expressing your feelings may help identify ways you can help to reduce your stress levels, by understanding your symptoms, condition, or being signposted to help such as financial support. Sometimes it can be difficult to ask for help and Cardiomyopathy UK has a dedicated helpline with trained nurses who can listen, advise and support you.

Support Groups

Cardiomyopathy UK Support Groups are run by people who have a similar heart condition to you. They can offer you the opportunity to meet and share experiences, which may help reduce your stress.

Peer support may be available to you through our helpline, where we can try and arrange for you to speak on a one-to-one basis with someone who understands what having a heart condition feels like. This is an opportunity to identify ways to cope with your symptoms and feelings.

If you would like to obtain our information booklet about coping with stress you can request a copy or download - ‘An introduction to emotional health and wellbeing’ either via the website or helpline on 0800 018 1024.

You can also get information about dealing with stress from MIND at mind.org.uk.

If you think that stress is affecting your health or feel that you may have a mental health condition, make an appointment to see your GP to talk about this.

By Jayne Partridge

Cardiomyopathy UK Support Nurse