Worries after a heart failure diagnosis can be overwhelming. Rob Obey shares his three steps toward a more positive mindset and living in the moment.
In my piece, "Ways I Will Give My Heart a Fighting Chance," I touched on using Perspective, Honesty, and Positive Self-Talk when you have heart failure.
Since then, I've been practicing what I preach. Today, I want to share my insights and results with you.
Gaining perspective, being honest, and using positive self-talk are helping me accept where I am now. These three habits allow me to neutrally review how my life has changed since my heart failure diagnosis.
They may also help you on this lonely journey. I sincerely hope they do.
1: Gaining perspective
Let's start with perspective. In "Ways I Will Give My Heart a Fighting Chance,” I said:
"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."
Perspective means how I look at things, my point of view, and how I internalize information.
I hadn't given much thought to perspective before writing that article, but now I do.
My perspective comes from how I interpret information and how it manifests in my thoughts, actions, and emotions.
In other words, my perspective guides me. In some cases, it can control me. If I can accept that, I must also have some input into how my perspective develops.
Heart failure and the uncertainty that comes with it have shaped my perspective. I'll be honest when I say my outlook has been bleak for some time.
But, during the last month or so, I have been influencing my train of thought by consuming positive information. I've been reading heart failure stories that contain good news, and it's made a marked difference.
I now know I can gain a different perspective by making a concerted effort to do so.
Let me tell you how.
I find and read positive news stories about breakthroughs in heart failure treatment. I have joined Facebook groups and listened to people who are thriving with heart failure.
And whenever my positive perspective starts to wane, I immerse myself in these stories and news items.
And it works!
When looking for good news, I start with the "Our Research" section on the British Heart Foundation (BHF) website, as I live in the UK. If you live in the US, why not check out the American Heart Association's Research Accomplishments page?
2: Being honest with yourself
When you have heart failure, being honest with yourself is essential. And this goes back to my previous point about perspective.
By honesty, I mean accepting my limitations, thriving despite them, and focusing on what I can do, not what I can't.
And I also mean recognizing that worrying about "what's next" wastes my precious time.
I decided to do everything I could to help my heart. Part of that is eradicating worry and anxiety about the unknown.
The brutal truth is we will all die someday. The cause might be heart failure, but it might not.
Accepting that as the truth is liberating. There is little point in me worrying about something I have no idea how, when, and why it will happen.
That's what I'm talking about when I say being honest with myself. I accept there will only be one outcome.
This frees me from the chains and directs me to the best life I can have going forward.
I no longer fret over or dwell on heart failure; I embrace it as a small part of who I am.
Trust me - this new way of thinking took time. It's a process, a journey where I was able to navigate my way to the end goal.
And the way I found this more peaceful path was by using positive self-talk.
3: Using positive self-talk
Heart failure is like carrying heavy manacles with you; their weight is always there. They restrict you and weigh you down.
There is a constant rain cloud above your head. Fleeting positive thoughts drown in a monsoon of worry, depression, and anxiety.
That's no way to live. Self-talk is the key to unlocking those heavy bonds and blowing away those clouds. Positive self-talk will set you free and allow you to thrive.
Think about what the little voice in your head says about heart failure. I'll bet most of it is negative.
In my case, it was always, "You can't do this" and "You shouldn't do that." Sadly, I used to believe this voice and suffered for it.
No more! I am training myself to recognize that negative voice. When I do, I take a breath and replace it with a considered and measured “cheerful voice.”
"Considered" and "measured" are essential here. Catapulting myself too far in the other direction - into total jollity - gets me carried away. I encourage myself to do something way beyond my limits.
So, remember that there's no need for a massive, 180-degree mind shift. All you need to do is change your mindset in small but positive increments. Set that nasty "little voice" on the right track, and nudge it from self-doubt to self-encouragement.
Over time, these small but influential changes in self-talk will add up. You find yourself being less negative and less of a party pooper. I'm more encouraging toward myself nowadays, and I've become my biggest supporter.
If you struggle with self-talk, consider joining a group of like-minded people who have been in your situation. They can be a great support when you need them the most.
My go-to group is the Heart Failure Matters group on Facebook, but I am sure there are many others. Fire up your chosen search engine, and explore some opportunities.
I want the takeaway of this article to be "you are in control."
You have the power to change your mind, direct your thoughts, and endorse the life you want to have.
Resetting your mindset will be challenging. But the more positive information you consume and the more you actively practice positive self-talk, the easier it will become.
Try gaining a more positive perspective. Be honest about your limitations, fears, and anxieties, but don't allow them to control you. Everyone has limitations - but you can accept those and still change your internal dialogue.
If my methods don't work for you, that's fine - but don't give up! There are many ways to achieve mental stillness; what works for you may not work for me, and vice versa. Trust your instincts and your interests, then go from there.
Mental stillness - you won't regret it.
The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.
NPS-ALL-NP-00884 MARCH 2023