A heart incident or heart failure diagnosis can be overwhelming. Rob Obey has been through his fair share of highs and lows with his health, but he refuses to let his heart issues make him feel defeatist for another year.
Today, Rob shares his five-step "Give My Heart a Fighting Chance" action plan for 2023 and beyond. He also explores the absolute power of positive self-talk and how it will help him maintain healthier heart habits.
I have been in a reflective mood. Is it the time of year or where I'm at in my lifecycle? I wonder.
You may have sensed my state of mind if you've read my article, Being Honest with Each Other about Heart Failure.
Reading the post back, it sounds like I'm giving up or crying out for help, and I'm not!
Also, family members read my posts, and I'd hate for them to think I’m miserable.
So, as I move into my sixth year of living with heart failure, I want to share my new plans for positive self-talk and other action items for the future.
I'm giving my heart a fighting chance
This next year, and every year after, I'm doing everything I can to give my heart a fighting chance.
I thought I was already doing so, but my efforts could be more consistent. I try to be good then life gets in the way, and I let my heart down.
I want to live and can only do that by playing an active role in my health. I need to give my heart what it needs to do its job.
Part of that is building myself up and being kind to myself. Remaining realistic yet optimistic.
So, here's what I'm going to do. My plan may inspire you; you never know!
1. I will manage my perspective
I have always lived by the mantra:
"It's not what happens in life; how you deal with it matters."
Since my heart failure diagnosis, I've noticed this mantra hasn't cut it.
Some days, I can see the opportunities heart failure gives me. Like when I'm writing these posts, for example. But my perspective is cloudy on other days, and my blessings aren't as evident.
I need to work hard to manage my perspective. I need to focus on what I can do, not what I can't.
It starts with a decision. And I decide to make the most of whatever time I have left.
I use these resources from the British Heart Foundation. Take a look and see if they help! But remember to talk to your doctor or healthcare team before making any lifestyle, diet, or exercise changes.
2. I’ll continue being honest with myself
If I'm being honest, I know my heart's health is deteriorating; my symptoms tell me that.
If I remain a bystander, I'll increase the chances of a heart attack, stroke or worse, and I don't want that.
Waiting for something bad to happen to my heart is pointless. Some things are out of my control, but I can live with that. What I can't live with is quitting or giving up.
So, I'm now practising positive self-talk. If you haven't heard of positive self-talk, here's my interpretation:
A little voice in your head can say the nastiest, most defeatist things. It says, "You're too ill to do that," or "What's the point? You'll only make yourself worse." That "little voice" is you, and it's negative self-talk.
We can't always help that. Positive self-talk isn't about being blindly chipper no matter what. It recognises the negative thoughts as they happen and then chooses to change the narrative.
So, as my "little voice" says, "You're ill, blah, blah," my louder (and less natural, for the moment) inner voice says, "Yes, you're ill. But isn't it great that you can still do this? A little slower, perhaps, but look! If you pace yourself, you can see it through." That's positive self-talk.
The skill is saying or thinking more positives than negatives; it's that simple. But it does take some practising!
Perspective and honesty are the starting point. Getting rid of negativity reduces stress. And we all know less stress means lower blood pressure and healthier hearts.
Now, what else can I do?
3. I’ll stick to a healthy diet
In truth, my diet has changed dramatically since my diabetes diagnosis.
There's still room for improvement. Cooked breakfasts have started creeping back in, but I'm entitled to some of the things I love.
What if I have them in moderation and swap some ingredients for less fatty/salty alternatives? Then a cooked breakfast can't be that bad, can it?
I should treat a cooked breakfast as a reward. If I eat a healthy breakfast for five days straight, I can reward myself with full English, which will work.
The British Heart Foundation has saved the day again with this recipe finder. Give it a whirl if you want to improve your diet.
4. I’ll find more ways to exercise that suit me
Exercise is my nemesis. As well as heart failure, my fibromyalgia severely lowers my exercise tolerance.
Chair exercises are an alternative form of activity for heart failure patients. I've been trying them, and they're pretty good!
I need to increase my sessions, but at least I have been trying, so I can pat myself on the back for that.
5. I’ll do more of what I like just because I can
I've been thinking about this one a lot. And the more I do, the more convinced I am that doing more of what you like is good for you.
Doing what you like relaxes and distracts you while reinforcing your general well-being.
For me, that means more writing, researching and, dare I say it, thinking. I love sitting down in a quiet place and letting my mind wander.
It's a perfect opportunity to practise positive self-talk and perspective management. Better yet, it's less physically taxing than almost any other activity.
And writing - especially writing these posts - is like sitting down for a chat with a friend. It's such a relaxing time for me.
I hope you agree that we have a responsibility to play an active role in managing our heart failure. We need to remember what we can do to help ourselves.
It's understandable because heart failure can be overwhelming, particularly as the condition deteriorates. But that doesn't mean we should give up trying to live as typical a life as possible.
Life might not always be easy, but we owe it to ourselves to try to strive for the best. And our hearts - our life source - certainly deserve a fighting chance.
NPS-IE-NP-00680 January 2023