Managing Stress


Carolyn Guilford
Carolyn Guilford

A reader recovering from heart surgery asked what can she do to get a handle on stress? Her doctor told her that she must find a way, to avoid another heart attack, and she certainly wants to be able to get back to ‘normal life’.

My answer I thought would benefit many persons, recovering or not, to think about the ways we handle stress on a daily basis. Some persons are so accustomed to common stressors, that they don’t even recognize it as stress. So here’s the test. — Think about the times when you are working toward a deadline, but there’s just not enough time; You are arguing with someone close to you, but just can’t make him understand; You are trying to get somewhere important, but the traffic is heavy and barely moving; You are speeding to pick up your child on time, and suddenly you see the blue light rolling up behind you; You receive a call in the middle of the night; — Suddenly, you are aware that your heart was pounding, racing, and you are breathing hard, almost out of breath. Your body is tense and there’s a tightness in your throat….. These are the physical signs of stress.

Persons in chronic heart failure need to avoid this physical response to stress, which makes the heart work harder, and can make symptoms worse. This response in a person with heart disease can bring on a heart attack, and could end in sudden death.

Persons with any chronic illness and certainly persons with heart disease will feel anxious about their health and long-term prognosis. We all have certain stress-causing “triggers” — things such as rush-hour traffic, a hectic work environment, challenging boss, financial concerns, dependent children, or family conflict. No one can manage all of these troubles, but there are ways to cope with them better. Here are some strategies for minimizing stressors and for managing stress in everyday situations. These are great for anyone. Using them will even help avoid stress related illnesses. Think about the things that upset you, and make a list. This is good therapy. Go over the list and think about what you can do to head off these situations before they occur. Spend less time with people who tend to upset you. If rushing about gives you a headache, start out earlier. If the deadline is looming, ask for help or an extension. If it’s the rush-hour traffic, leave earlier or later. Use the drive time to listen to a humorous book on tape. If you have issues with money, get a budget.

An exercise routine daily is a wonderful and relaxing habit to get into. It will help you physically and emotionally, to feel strong and balanced. Make it something you enjoy, walking, swimming, jogging, golfing, tai chi, biking, or curves. Check with your doctor, if you have any illness, to determine what activity level is right for you.

Take 10 minutes twice a day, to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think peaceful thoughts.

Count to 10 before answering when you feel angry.

Do not use smoking, drinking, overeating, drugs, or caffeine as part of coping with stress. These bad choices will make things worse.

To Be Continued

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