Heart your mind
Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression are very common experiences for people after experiencing a heart event, and for those with an ongoing heart condition. As many as 1 out of every 3 people who have a heart attack/heart event report feelings of stress, depression and/or anxiety. People who have had depression or anxiety before, and people who are without social or emotional support are at a higher risk of depression or anxiety after a heart event.
Stress, health and well-being are all connected. Science is constantly showing us the impact that stress has on overall health. Stress can be a contributing factor in everything from backaches to cancer and heart disease. High blood pressure, heart attacks, heart palpitations, and stroke may be stress related cardiovascular conditions. Eliminating stress completely from your life is impossible. However, implementing some stress management techniques can reduce some of its’ harmful effects. Stress management includes following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and making time for uninterrupted relaxation.
Depression is a medical illness, just like diabetes or high blood pressure. The physical and emotional symptoms of depression include some or many of the following:
- Depressed mood (crying or feeling sad often)
- Loss of interest in everyday activities, that used to be fun
- Changes in weight and appetite
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Lack of energy
- Problems concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling agitated
- Thoughts of death or suicide
People who are depressed experience symptoms from the list above nearly every day, all day, for 2 or more weeks. Depressed mood and loss of interest in daily activities are two of the most common symptoms of depression.
Depression can be treated with medicine, counselling (talking therapy), or both. Speak to your doctor about symptoms, possible treatments and seek professional advice regarding the side effects of the medication you are currently taking- which also may contribute to feeling depressed.
Treatment generally helps between 80% and 90% of people with depression.
The person dealing with a heart condition, as well as their family and friends, will often need to confront potential underlying fears and anxieties such as fear of what may happen and sometimes fear of even death. There are many types of anxiety disorders, such as Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Phobia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; and people will often have symptoms of more than one. Some general anxiety symptoms include:
- Feeling edgy/restless
- Difficult concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Intrusive and ruminating thoughts
Anxiety, like depression, can also be treated through both medical and counselling means. Please see links below.
Tips for a healthy mind-and heart:
- Be Patient. Feelings of fear, anxiety, depression or anger, are common and usually are temporary. You are also likely to have “good” and “bad” days. Acknowledging this, can be a helpful and comforting approach
- Share your problems. Discuss your feelings with your medical team, family and friends. Sharing your feelings especially with others who also suffer from a heart condition, can be very helpful and comforting. (Link here for blog)
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation affects your emotional and physical health
- Keep a journal. Often writing about your feelings can help to process and express difficult emotions, and can help you make some sense of them
- Live a balanced life. Take the time you need for you, try getting outside to smell the fresh air, and appreciate the simple things in life. Watch what you eat as food can also affect your mood. (link to healthy eating page)
- Watch a funny movie or program. It is always a good recipe to lift your spirits
- Take a long bath or have a massage. Spoil yourself and do more of the things you love!
- Offer good will to others. When we give to others we often feel good about ourselves!
- Seek professional help if depression, anger, or anxiety symptoms persist for more than 4 weeks. Your G.P can be helpful in arranging this
To be connected to a counsellor in your area contact:
Or for more information on anxiety and/or depression go to
Call 1300 22 4636
In the case of emergency call 24 hour crisis support line
Call 13 1114
“Most mental illnesses are a natural way of healing our state of alienation and these altered states may be part of our journey to renewal” –Dr R.D laing and Dr John Weir Perry