Acceptance when living with a heart condition is crucial to your emotional recovery. When an event changes your life, it also changes your future. You can often find yourself wishing things were as they were before. You may fight so hard that you exhaust yourself. The desire to want life to be as it was holds you stuck in an unhappy place. Feeling hopeless and lost.
I work with people around a model of 6 mindsets that are key to creating and living a life you love. There is an underpinning mindset that is the foundation of recovery and wellbeing. A key part of the journey to your new life is acceptance.
To accept the situation, yourself, your body, what was and what is, along with your limitations. You will know that different is good, if not better. To know that even change changes, and there is always a ‘new normal’ just around the corner.
My favourite saying is ‘it is, what it is’!
Acceptance when living with a heart condition
- In positive psychology, self-acceptance is needed for change to occur. It’s achieved by stopping the negativity. It’s not always about positive thinking. It more about stopping the criticism about your health and any shortfalls in your life. Acceptance when living with a heart condition helps you shape your new future.
- It’s having that feeling that your life is right for you right now, or at least satisfactory. You can’t change the fact that you have experienced an issue with your heart. Your life will be different and it can be as good, if not better. It can also be accepting that you are now part of the new group of amazing people that are cardiac survivors.
- After a heart-related health issue, your healthcare professionals will create a rehabilitation plan. It is important to accept and agree with yourself and them that you will accept and live with it. This will enable you to continue being a survivor, in fact, to help you to thrive. This is acceptance of both lifestyle changes and mental attitude.
- It’s about accepting an unpleasant or difficult situation. This definition is a full fit for me. Well hell yeah, we don’t want to know that our body is not what it was before. We may want to fight against the unfairness. Not want to take medication, change our lifestyles or even that we survived when others didn’t.
- It is acknowledging that you and your situation is perfect, in its imperfections. You are of unique worth. Self-acceptance is to be necessary for good mental health and emotional wellbeing.
What – I’m living with a heart condition?
For a while, after my heart attack, I was in denial of the situation. I wasn’t educated enough to know the full impact on my body, my mind and my life. Like many of you, I’m sure, I had spent my whole life I had believing I was invincible.
Then I had a heart attack. It was 3 days before I sought out medical help. I was convinced it was indigestion. I felt betrayed by my body and I could no longer trust it or myself. I couldn’t believe that I could have anything serious like a heart attack.
When I returned home from Papworth Hospital with my 3 shiny new stents. I was fearful and miserable. I had to try to hide it and pretend everything was alright. The reality was that I was fighting myself and my situation – I wanted everything to be ‘normal’. Why wasn’t I wasn’t back to full health after a few days rest, I didn’t understand.
I had mood swings from tears to feelings of exultation, I was fearful and had little trust in myself or my future. There were changes I was going through that I didn’t understand either – how did I suddenly stop liking the taste or smell of red wine and coffee. I wanted to feel safe and comfortable in my life.
Then I worked it out it was that I needed to accept myself, my life and my body. I also had to accept how my health and recovery affected others that loved me too.
Some of the benefits of acceptance can be regulation of your moods. It helps decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the fear of failure. There is less desire to win the approval of others by pretending everything is okay. When I couldn’t do the things that I used to I was angry and frustrated. With acceptance, there is less self-critique and more self-kindness.
This can mean an increase in positive emotions. A heightened sense of freedom and more independence. Self-worth and self-esteem will rise. Giving you more desire to live life for yourself and not others.
You will be able to take more ‘educated’ risks with confidence. Experience less worry about the consequences. You’ll have acceptance when living with a heart condition.
I aim to give you practical tools, tips and tricks that you can easily use in your life that make a real difference to the way you feel, I want you to feel good now.
One way to gain acceptance is by using your breath. We tend to take breathing for granted and it really is an undervalued wellbeing tool. Breathing; yes, whilst we need it to continue being alive it can also affect how we feel. By using the breathing technique 7/11 (or what is comfortable for you) you allow your own bodies natural calming and relaxing chemicals to kick in and provide relief.
Sympathetic/Parasympathetic Nervous System
In 2016, not a good year, I had many health issues. A ruptured Achilles tendon, a Heart Attack and a Cancer diagnosis all within 6 months. Being in a permanent state of anxiety, I felt much worse when I thought about life in the future. It was then that I used my breath as one of the techniques to bring me into the now. Breathing helped me to accept where I was at that moment of time and calm myself.
Once I was at home I began to experience uncontrollable breathlessness and palpitations. In the hospital, I hadn’t experienced any and it worried me a great deal. I was aware that it can be a vicious circle. The more I worried about it the less I was able to breathe, the more I was aware of my heart beating.
After checking with the cardiac rehabilitation team, always best to check it out. I started using the 7/11 diaphragmatic breathing technique. This uses your natural responses from the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Calming you down as you are focussing on counting and your breathe.
Calmer nervous system
The parasympathetic nervous system is triggered when things are safe (eg no woolly mammoths). The hormones that are released signal that you can experience relaxation, rest and digestion. It is responsible for controlling homeostasis (the balance and maintenance of your body). It restores your body to a state of calm and allows it to relax and repair itself.
How it works
Imagine it’s late dusk and the light is drawing in. You are walking alone in a dark area, you’ve never been there before. There are no houses or street lights and you don’t have your mobile phone to light your way or to get help.
In the distance, you can hear the sound of a group of people. They sound angry and quite worrying. They are heckling each other and it sounds like they are shouting at each other. You can hear them getting closer, but you can’t see them. You can hear the sound of metal on railings and much louder laughter and cajoling.
In this scenario, you will have no doubt taken a sharp intake of breath and be shallow breathing. This will trigger your flight, fight or freeze response. Adrenaline and cortisol will begin to course through your body. Getting you ready for action.
Continue imagining what you would see, hear and feel as you carry on walking, quite quickly I would guess. Walking a little further, feeling the tension in your tummy and your shoulders. You now turn a corner and enter an area of brightly lit street lights. You can see other people, there are houses too. A happy sight for sure.
At this point, most likely you will exhale slowly and deeply. As you do your shoulders would start dropping and you’d be reducing the speed of your walk. It is the long slow breath out that triggers your parasympathetic nervous system. You will begin to feel calmer and more confident. You may even feel a little silly.
The process ~ Breath | An undervalued wellbeing tool
Diaphragmatic breathing is also known as deep breathing or abdominal breathing.
- Get comfortable in a sitting upright position looking straight ahead or laying down flat.
- You can close your eyes to help you concentrate.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your tummy below your belly button.
- The idea is that your breathing should come from your diaphragm. As your body rises and falls as you breathe your hand on your tummy should move just before the hand on your chest.
- Breathe out gently and effortlessly to the count of 11*.
- Now wait for a second or two until you spontaneously begin to breathe in – this will occur naturally.
- Allow the air to easily flow in again until it stops, again of its own accord around the count of 7*.
- Make no effort to deepen the inhalation. Allow your body to find its own natural rate of breathing and relax into a rhythm.
- Allowing your breathing to slow down and become shallower as you relax more and more.
- Continue doing this for about 5 minutes.
Palpitations and racing heartbeat. It can be a vicious circle but if you are in any doubt check it out, get medical advice and support.
Do this regularly once or twice a day, take 5 minutes to just breathe and enjoy the sensations of rest and relaxation. It helps when you want to change your state eg if you are angry, frustrated, anxious or worrying.
✨ FREE TO JOIN ✨
My Heart & Mind, Emotional Cardiac Rehab Community
Pop over to our free community and say hello.
What thoughts could get in your way?
It makes me dizzy!
💜 Stop and breath normally. You might want to gently try again. Adjust the length of the breathing to suit your requirements, try 3/6. The important bit of this exercise is to take a little longer to exhale. Don’t worry take it at your own pace. Make sure you practice sitting or lying down. If in any doubt, check it out with your medical team.
I don’t have time!
💜 Five minutes is a fraction of your day. Acceptance when living with a heart condition means taking time for yourself.
I will forget!
💜 Set a reminder timer for yourself. A great way to start new habits is to add to an existing habit like after you clean your teeth or take your medication.
And the beat goes on … one moment at a time.