14. “I live in fear of my A-Fib. I never know when I’m going to get an A-Fib attack or how long it will last. How do people deal with this constantly lurking fear and anxiety?”
Don’t be ashamed to admit how A-Fib makes you feel (especially if you’re a guy). A-Fib has psychological and emotional effects as well as physical. Recent research indicates that “psychological distress” worsens A-Fib symptoms’ severity.
Seven WAYS TO COPE WITH YOUR A-FIB FEAR AND ANXIETY
1. Knowledge is Power and Control!
Read about your treatment options, learn about your A-Fib. Read how others have dealt with their A-Fib. Search the list of Personal Experiences published on his site. With over 90 stories, you’re sure to find a few patients with similar symptoms as yourself. Knowing others have beaten their A-Fib is a tremendous psychological relief. This helps replace fear with hope!
2. Anxiety Thought Log
Confront your A-Fib fears directly. Don’t let them mill around in your subconscious. Former A-Fib patient, Anthony Bladon, suggests you keep an ‘anxiety thoughts log.’ Write down word-for-word what the anxious thought was, when, and what was the trigger. Confront each fearful thought and try to re-state it in a more reasonable frame of mind, thereby reducing the anxiety. (See Anthony Bladon and his anxiety log.)
This may sound a bit bizarre, but try repeating anxious thoughts to yourself. Express a fear to yourself over and over. Let the monotony make your mind wander to more enjoyable thoughts. Or set aside a 20 minute worrying time during the day and refuse to think about troubling fears at any other time.
3. Yoga, Relaxation Techniques and Meditation
In preliminary studies, Yoga has been demonstrated to improve A-Fib symptoms and to reduce A-Fib attacks, as well as improve quality of life, depression and anxiety.2 (See also FAQ #8 “I do Yoga. It relaxes me and helps with my stress level. Is there any evidence on Yoga helping with other A-Fib symptoms?“)
Relaxation techniques and meditation may also offer you relief from your anxieties.
A specific type of meditation called ‘Mindfulness’ is recommended by Harvard Pilgrim nurse case manager Linda Bixby. The technique is to ‘Observe and Feel the Physical Sensations’ of the A-Fib Episodes. At first this may seem counter-intuitive and may not work for you. The idea is to observe rather than resist or worry. You allow a frightening health event like an A-Fib attack to just run its course. For example, Neil Blanchette was diagnosed with A-Fib when he was 17. Meditation and “mindfulness” was a great help to him. “Just taking it in and letting myself feel the physical A-Fib experience was actually relaxing.”3(Thanks to David Holzman for calling our attention to this article.)
4. Natural Remedies:
Lavender Oil Aromatherapy: the light, soothing fragrance of lavender oil has long been used to ease anxiety (and insomnia). One example of many is Nature’s Way Calm Aid. “It contains Silexan, a type of lavender oil shown in clinical studies to ease anxiety as effectively as the benzodiazepine drug lorazepam (Ativan).”4
PharmaGABA: is a bioidentical form of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which serves as a critical calming agent in the central nervous system, works on the same chemical pathways as Xanax, Valium, and other drugs—without all the negative side effects; helps combat stress and anxiousness.5 One example is Natural Factors PharmaGABA
Relora: a blend of two botanical extracts (Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense) that helps reduce cortisol levels and promotes feelings of relaxation.6
5. Counseling and Meds
Recognize that you may need professional help. Don’t be embarrassed to seek counseling. In addition, discuss if anxiety medication would be appropriate or helpful. (See Jay Teresi’s story, “Anxiety the Greatest Challenge” and Kelly Teresi’s story “A Young Wife Copes with Husband’s A-Fib” in my book, Beat Your A-Fib, pgs. 101-105)
6. Our A-Fib Support Volunteers
It might calm your fears to talk with or email someone who knows first-hand how A-Fib makes you feel. Each of our A-Fib Support Volunteers has gone through a lot to be cured of their A-Fib. They were helped along the way and now they want to return the favor by offering you support and hope. Learn more on our A-Fib Support Volunteers page (under Resources and Links).
7. Enlist Support From Your Loved Ones
Recognize that A-Fib can have significant consequences on your social interactions with your family and colleagues. Sit down and have a talk with your significant other, your friends and co-workers. Explain what A-Fib is, how it affects you and how it makes you feel. Ask for their understanding. They will want to help you, so be prepared to answer their questions.
Takeaway: Fight your fears! Ambush your anxiety! Atrial Fibrillation may be in your heart but it doesn’t have to be in your head. Seek your freedom from anxiety and improve the quality of your life.
Other ideas? If you have suggestions or programs that helped reduce your A-Fib-related anxiety, please email me and let me know.
Last updated: Friday, August 21, 2015
References (↵ returns to text)
- Gehi AK at al. Psychopathology and symptoms of atrial fibrillation: implications for therapy. J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 2012 May;23(5):473-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8167.2011.02264.x. Epub 2012 Mar 19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22429764↵
- Neale, T. Yoga May Calm Afib. MedscapeToday.com. Jan 23, 2013. Last accessed Jan 23, 2014. URL:http://www.medpagetoday.com/Cardiology/Arrhythmias/37121↵
- Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Your Health, Fall 2014.↵
- Lucile, H. (DrHollyLucille.com) Natural remedy for anxiety, Bottom Line Health, April, 2014, p. 16.↵
- Whitaker, J. PharmaGABA Chewables for Immediate Stress Relief. Whitaker Wellness Institute website. Last accessed March 29, 2014. URL: http://www.whitakerwellness.com/pharmagaba/↵
- Whitaker, J. Innovations in Wellness Medicine, Natural Solutions for Stress Relief. Dr. Whitaker’s Health & Healing, March 2015, Vol. 25, No. 3.↵
Last updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2016