A-Fib Patients: Is Stress Really Bad For You?

Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author of The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, has challenged the conventional view that stress is bad for you. I found a few insights from her book encouraging for A-Fib patients.

Researchers who followed 30,000 US Americans for eight years found that the risk for death from any cause rose by 43% among participants who had high levels of stress. But that number applied only to people who believed that the stress they were experiencing was bad for their health.

From the Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

From the Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

Study participants who reported similar levels of stress but who did not consider it to be bad for their health, had survival rates that were actually better than those of people with relatively stress-free lives.

Dr. McGonigal recommends telling yourself “I’m excited” rather than stressed. Try to look at stress as simply your body’s response when something you care about is at stake. The pounding heart or faster breathing is your body’s way of heightening your senses so that you are mentally focused and motivated to do well.

Look at stress as a challenge rather than a looming threat.

So What Does this Mean for A-Fib Patients? Stress, by itself, is not usually a trigger for an A-Fib attack. (You could be totally stress-free, lounging on a swing on a tropical isle and still have an A-Fib attack.)

But stress can play a role in the intensity and duration of your A-Fib attacks.

Beyond the physical, A-Fib has psychological and emotional effects as well. Recent research indicates that “psychological distress” worsens the severity of A-Fib symptoms.

Kelly G book cover - Upside of Stress 75 pix wide at 300 res

Buy this book

Give Dr. McGonigal’s Advice a Try. So, when feeling stressed, try mentally ‘reframing’ the stress as a ‘challenge’ rather than as a looming threat. Tell yourself “I’m excited” rather than stressed. It may help lessen your A-Fib symptoms. (Let me know if this works for you! Email me.)

Sounds like this approach could help in many areas of our lives.

For other ways to cope with your stress, see our A-Fib.com article, Coping With the Fear and Anxiety of Atrial Fibrillation.

For more about stress from Kelly McGonigal, read her The Washington Post interview, or her book, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It.

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