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It’s not heart, it’s not mind– it’s both!

Post by Dr Jankhana Hakani on Thursday, September 29, 2022

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I begin writing this article by wishing you all a very happy World Heart Day! 

We all have gone through heart aches, or heart breaks causing us to feel as if we were having a heart attack. But, today we are not going to talk about this. On World Heart Day, we are going to talk about the mind role in heart problems. 

 We all know that one of the major contributing factors of heart illnesses is the troubled mind. Others are weight, sedentary lifestyle, rich oily and creamy food. 

The emotions, the content of our thoughts, our attitudes and perceptions, beliefs, expectations play a vital role on Cardiac Health. Negative Coping mechanisms, poor sleep wake cycle, burnout, multiple life stressors increase the risk of heart problems. 

According to National Institutes of Mental Health ( NIMH), up to 65% of coronary heart disease patients with a history of heart attack experience various forms of depression.  Major depression and Anxiety disorders can prolong the recovery process in these patients and also increases the chances of future heart attacks and strokes. 

For a healthy heart , we need a healthy mind. To achieve this follow these things:

  1. Identify and Accept: Yes, I am feeling low, amotivated, tearful, sad. Yes, I am having anxiety. Yes, I am having sleep issues. Yes, I drink a lot. Yes, I have eating problems as well. 
  2. Seek for a professional help. 
  3. Strengthen your mind and increase mental endurance.

 

How to improve resilience? Here are the six positive coping strategies: 

  1. Develop a sense of control

We as humans like to be in control of our life and things around us. So, to develop a sense of control, we need to set a routine. Follow a schedule for day to day activities. This helps us feel in control and lowers the stress and anxiety. 

  1. Make goals

It is very important to have goals and purpose in life. It keeps us motivated and self sufficient. Goals can be big or small. They have to be based on your own needs and wants. 

Tips on how to make goals: Make S.M.A.R.T. goals. It means: 

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant): Define it exactly. e.g, I want to be fit. 
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating): e.g, it will help me with my physical endurance. 
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable): It may push you to your limits, but it should be doable and plausible. It must be realistic, including finances. e.g, Play a sport ( badminton). 
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based): e.g, It will ensure my over all fitness.
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive):

e.g, I will play badminton for 40 mins - thrice a week. 

 

  1. Self care

Physical: By eating healthy diet and by exercise. Exercise  releases the feel good hormone- called- endorphin. 

Mental:  

  1. Positive self talk:Talk positively about yourself without any judgement,  forgive yourself and see if you can solve the issues and correct your mistakes. If you are not able to undo the mistakes after all your efforts , tell yourself - “ you tried your best and it’s OK if it does not work or it’s okay to make mistakes.” Learn to be less critical and more appreciative of yourself. 
  2. Being mindful: Helps to be in the NOW and the present and break the cycle of negative thoughts and anxiety. Follow the RULE OF 3. 

Notice any 3 things around you- the three things that you can see, 3 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch and 3 things you can feel. Describe them in detail. This will bring you back to the present and current scenario and help you focus more on the present and avoid overthinking.

  1. Meditation:Practise meditation for at least 10 minutes everyday. This will help to clear your mind. 
  2. Being great full:Be grateful of all the things that you have. Everyday you can think of 5 things that you were grateful for. This helps in more clarity of thought and better coping.
  3. Help others:When we help others, we feel a sense of being useful and helpful. It gives us a sense of accomplishment.
  4. Keep busy:It is said that “empty mind is the Devils workshop”. Keep yourself busy by doing activities that you like, learning new hobbies, skills, watching movies, organising closets, or involving yourself with some social work, etc.
  5. Combat loneliness

 Loneliness is a sense of lack of emotional connection and companionship. It comes from within.Reconnect with friends and family over video calling/ Skype/ FaceTime. Video calling is much better than texting or emailing.

  1. Combat anxiety
  2. Control information flow  to topics which are relevant to you. Avoid excessive news channel/ twitter / Instagram use. 
  3. Accept uncertainty:  Make a list of uncertain things that you accept without realising in everyday life. For example, ‘will I get a bus or will I get a cab to work on time?’ So, once we realise that we have been living with these uncertainties, our brain acknowledges that everything is not 100% certain and still we are doing okay without certainty.
  4. Worry period: Set aside a time and place in the day for 30 minutes to worry. This is the only time that you are going to worry. It will happen with practice. 
  5. Good nights sleep

Refreshing, 6 to 8 hours of sleep is a need for a healthy mind. Sleep deprivation can lead to mood changes, lowered focus, irritability, and anxiety. By following sleep hygiene techniques, one can achieve a good nights sleep. 

Applying positive coping strategies in day to day life helps improves resilience and improves our quality of life and promotes positive mental health. 

“It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits.” –Ellen J. Langer

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