Do you ever catch yourself saying negative, self-defeating things about yourself? Self-talk, the inner dialogue that goes on inside our heads, can sometimes take a negative turn, become part of our daily conversations and shape our experiences.
There are many challenges associated with heart disease. And unfortunately, it takes a toll on one’s mental health in a vicious cycle — negative statements can affect our mood, energy levels, and overall health, making it difficult to overcome the diagnosis and find ways to feel good again.
Here is a list of tips to quiet your inner critic and take care of yourself.
Recognize When Negative Self-Talk is Triggered
Certain situations and conversations might trigger your habit of speaking negatively toward yourself. Recognizing when this happens and switching up your narrative is the first step in demolishing this self-destructive habit.
When you feel the need to say, “I can’t do that because of my heart disease,” flip the narrative and choose the positive alternative you can do, transforming it into a positive statement such as, “I will do this instead because I have heart disease and I know that I can help myself feel better.”
It takes time to get in the habit of reversing your thinking and internal voice, so give yourself some grace. You may find yourself falling back into bad habits from time to time, but over time, you will be amazed at how simply choosing your words wisely can improve your overall mental health.
Listen to WomenHeart Champion Gwen Mayes talk about her strategies for positive self-talk.
Staying Active Can Boost Your Mood
Physical activity is a natural mood lifter and reduces your risk of heart attacks. A lot of research has been done about the impact physical activity has on your mood and self-esteem. Studies show that exercise releases endorphins, which are natural hormones that reduce stress and anxiety and make you feel good.
If you are living with heart disease, one of the best things you can do for your heart and mind is to get and stay active with the help of your doctor. Simple exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming, or riding a bike have significant impacts on your heart health. The right amount and intensity of exercise can aid in lowering blood pressure, resting heart rate, and blood sugar.
Always consult with your doctor about the best types of exercise and pay close attention to how you feel. Cardiac rehabilitation can be a great way to build confidence and learn what activities are right for you after experiencing a heart event – ask your doctor if you qualify for this health service.
Once you get into a routine, you will be amazed how quickly you can go from, “I have heart disease, so I can’t exercise like others can,” to “Because I have heart disease, I make sure to stay active as a part of my health routine.”
Set Goals and Track Your Progress
Personal goals are great for keeping yourself motivated.
Keep your goals realistic and achievable to increase your chances of feeling accomplished and motivated. When setting goals, think about what would motivate you to accomplish them. For example, instead of focusing on cutting out sugar, think about the health benefits of eating whole foods and how changing your eating habits can help you reduce the risk of future cardiac events.
Along with your goals, get in the habit of tracking progress. Tracking your progress toward your goals is important for two reasons: It keeps you motivated, and 2) It helps you identify areas where you need improvement.
There are several different tools available to log your activities, set daily goals, and monitor your progress towards goals.
You can also keep a daily journal. Writing down how you are feeling daily can help you keep a documented inventory of where you started and where you are currently. The great thing about journaling is you can write whatever is on your mind and heart that day. No one is grading you, and you can write down how you’re really feeling mentally and physically. Plus, a health-focused journal where you track symptoms, activities, or feelings can be a great tool for you to work with your health team.
Have a Support System
Finding the right people in your corner to help you stay motivated and accountable for your actions is important. Everyone needs someone they can trust, someone who believes in them and wants to see them succeed.
Support systems look different for everyone. You may find comfort by joining a large group at your local gym or relying on a few close friends or family members. The choice is up to you and who’s around you.
Many patients find WomenHeart when they first get a heart diagnosis. And they find comfort in knowing that there are others out there who understand their struggles and have a shared path. If this is your case, reach out to WomenHeart’s SisterMatch program, a group that provides peer-to-peer support for women living with heart disease.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Eating a nutritious diet is essential for meeting your health goals.
Heart-healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, herbs and spices, olive oil, and tea. You can incorporate these items into your meals and snacks throughout the day with a little planning.
Get Quality Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of any wellness routine. Sleep helps our bodies recover from stress and helps the immune system work properly. It also enables your body to heal from injuries and illnesses and repair damaged tissue.
Getting poor or insufficient sleep puts you at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night, but many of them don’t get the recommended amount. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, work on your sleep hygiene by waking up at the same time every day, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants like processed sugar, exercising regularly (after talking to your doctor), and avoiding screens (like your phone or TV) before bedtime.
Check In With Yourself, and Remember To Take It One Day at a Time
If you have been struggling with depression or anxiety associated with managing heart disease, it can be hard to know when you are starting to feel better. Your mood will fluctuate throughout the day, so it’s important to pay attention to your mental state. Here are some signs that you’re feeling better:
- Feeling more positive emotions like joy, gratitude, and love.
- Having fewer negative thoughts and feelings like anger, fear, and self-doubt.
- Choosing to make better decisions instead of being in the same toxic cycle.
It’s hard to ditch negative self-talk and take care of yourself in the chaotic world we live in, especially in the face of a heart disease diagnosis. The important thing to remember is that it is possible and essential for managing and living with heart disease. The first step is realizing when you doubt yourself and changing the way you internally speak to yourself about your abilities and what you can accomplish.
Are you struggling to break the cycle of negative self-talk? Don’t feel like you have to tackle this obstacle alone. Find some support from the WomenHeart community.