9. “I have a lot of stress at work. Does this stress cause or trigger my A-Fib?”
There’s always going to be some stress in life. Nobody lives a stress-free life. Life events like the sudden death of a family member or friend can’t help but affect us in every part of our body and mind. But it’s not the danger of stress but how we respond to it that matters. If you can, take the stress in stride as part of the human condition.
Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, has challenged the conventional view that stress is bad for you. From her book, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It:
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. Study participants who reported similar levels of stress but 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.
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.
If you do get mired in a constant state of mental, emotional and physical tension due to stress, this can obviously affect your health and increase A-Fib. Should this happens to you, try to get medical, emotional and psychological help. We all need that kind of support from time to time.
For ways to cope with your stress, see our 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.
Last updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2015