Anxiety is a very strong feeling of being nervous or worried. Take action to manage your feelings of anxiety.
- Know the signs of anxiety.
- Talk to your doctor.
- Do relaxation exercises.
- Do more things that make you happy.
- Be social.
- Get active.
When you are anxious, you worry too much and tend to feel:
- tired (from trouble sleeping)
- muscle tension
Experiencing anxiety from time to time can be a normal part of life.
When worrying and fear start to interfere with your ability to get things done and enjoy your life, it can become a more persistent problem.
Persistent anxiety can develop into a type of anxiety disorder. Below are some examples of anxiety disorders.
If you think you may be suffering from any of these conditions, speak with someone you can trust such as your family doctor or other healthcare professional you are comfortable with.
Women and men can both develop serious anxiety difficulties after a heart event. After a heart attack you may feel anxious. If you experience panic attacks (where anxiety comes up suddenly) you may feel like you are having another heart attack.
It is important to get medical attention right away if you suddenly feel:
- very fearful
- chest pain
- short of breath
- palpitations (irregular or fast heart beat)
- upset stomach
The most confusing thing about panic for a heart patient is that it is very difficult to know if the symptoms you are feeling are due to a panic attack or another heart attack. This is especially true when you have a panic attack for the first time after surviving a heart attack. That is why it is important for people living with heart disease that are experiencing these symptoms to seek medical attention.
The doctor at the emergency room can test your blood and look at your heart rhythm to determine if you are experiencing another heart attack.
- If you are not having a heart attack, your doctor can help you decide how to manage your anxiety.
Remember, surviving a heart attack is a frightening experience that can leave you suffering from post-traumatic stress (anxiety from surviving a life-threatening incident).
The best ways to help your anxiety are to:
Talk to your doctor
- Your doctor can help you find the best ways to manage your anxiety. This may include medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, or breathing exercises.
- Talk to your friends and family about how you are feeling and what you are worrying about. Many people feel as though they should be able to handle what they are going through alone and they feel ashamed if others see their anxiety. This can lead to withdrawing from social situations.
- If you find yourself withdrawing from your friends and loved ones, talk to your doctor.
- Try to find at least one person you can share your feelings with.
Join a cardiac rehabilitation program
- You may find it helpful to connect with other people living with heart disease who may be feeling just like you. Together, you can share and learn from one another about managing your anxiety.
- When you do aerobic exercise (like walking) your brain releases chemicals called endorphins that make you feel happier.
- Your body also makes chemicals that turn down the stress system and begin to burn off stress hormones.
Learn how aerobic exercise can help you manage your heart condition and how to get started »
Do relaxation exercises
Finding ways to relax your body and mind may be helpful. There are lots of other ways to learn to relax your body and mind, but finding what works for you is what matters.
Start doing more of the things that make you happy
- You may find it easiest to start small. Choose one thing to do this week that makes you happy and go from there.
Surviving a heart attack gives you an advantage that others may not have; you now know how precious life is and that finding ways, even small ways, to be happy is important to do today.
Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills
Unfortunately, good intentions and desperation to be rid of anxiety can lead to self-medicating with alcohol and sleeping pills. Both are habit-forming and can interact with your heart medications.
If you find yourself regularly drinking alcohol or taking pills to ease your anxiety, please speak with your doctor or a trusted healthcare professional. Together, you will find a better solution to your anxiety.