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Heart Failure and Stress Management

Stress is a normal part of life. But, if left unmanaged, stress can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical problems, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, or irregular heart beats. To manage stress, you must first identify what is causing your stress.

What Causes Stress?

Stress can be caused by a physical or emotional change, or a change in your environment that requires you to adjust or respond. 

Below are some common stressors that can affect people at all stages of life:

  • Illness, either personal or of a family member or friend
  • Death of a friend or loved one
  • Problems in a personal relationship
  • Work overload
  • Starting a new job
  • Unemployment
  • Retirement
  • Pregnancy
  • Crowds
  • Relocation
  • Daily hassles
  • Legal problems
  • Financial concerns
  • Perfectionism

How Can I Cope With Stress?

After you've identified the cause of stress in your life, the next step is to learn techniques that can help you cope with stress. There are many techniques you can use to manage stress -- some you can learn yourself, others with the guidance of a trained therapist.

Some common techniques for coping with stress include:

  • Eat and drink sensibly. Abusing alcohol and food may seem to reduce stress, but it actually adds to it.
  • Assert yourself. You do not have to meet others' expectations or demands. It's OK to say "no." Remember, being assertive allows you to stand up for your rights and beliefs while respecting those of others.
  • Stop smoking. Aside from the obvious health risks of cigarettes, nicotine acts as a stimulant and brings on more stress symptoms.
  • Exercise regularly. Choose non-competitive exercise and set reasonable goals. Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude).
  • Relax every day. Choose from a variety of different relaxation techniques (see below).
  • Take responsibility. Control what you can and leave behind what you cannot control.
  • Reduce causes of stress. Many people find life is filled with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. Effective time-management skills involve asking for help when appropriate, setting priorities, pacing, and taking time out for yourself.
  • Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations. It's OK, and healthy, to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything all at once.
  • Sell yourself to yourself. When you are feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.
  • Get enough rest. Even with proper diet and exercise, you can't fight stress effectively without rest. You need time to recover from exercise and stressful events. The time you spend resting should be long enough to relax your mind as well as your body. Some people find that taking a nap in the middle of the day helps them reduce stress.

 

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