Heart Health

06 January 2009

Heart patient: handling stress

After a heart attack, your life will necessarily change to a certain degree. This can affect your relationship to loved ones and can possibly cause stress.


After a heart attack, your life will necessarily change to a certain degree. This can affect your relationship to loved ones and can possibly cause stress. Stress can be detrimental to the your health and should be avoided at all costs.

Causal factors of stress

  • Switching roles. Your spouse may have to do some of the things you usually did, like driving the car or taking out the garbage. Feelings of inadequacy may cause stress in your relationship.
  • Managing it all. Your partner may feel that he/she has to do everything: all the household chores while going back to work. This can cause stress.
  • Losing contact. The fact that you don’t feel up to making social contact with other people can affect your relationship with your partner. Furthermore, there is so much to do in the first few weeks after discharge that you simply don’t have time to meet with family and friends. Your partner may feel alone.

Ways to cope with stress

  • Exercise. By being active the body and mind relaxes.
  • Diet. Try to eat correctly.
  • Rest. Get enough sleep – at least eight hours a night.
  • Have fun. Make time for fun and recreation.
  • Relax. Relax by listening to soothing music, reading a book or playing with the cat.
  • Plan. Organise your activities to avoid overloading your schedule.
  • Delegate. Ask others to help with tasks.
  • Avoid competition. Stay away from competitive sports – this includes watching an intense rugby game on television or a suspense movie.

Resolving conflict
When you feel angry or frustrated it may prove helpful to assess your feelings before you lash out on your partner. Good communication skills is necessary in resolving conflict:

  • Stay rational. Ask yourself whether it's right to be angry. Evaluate the situation objectively.
  • Talk. Tell your partner in a calm way why you feel frustrated. Resolve problems by talking about it.
  • Listen. Give the other person a chance to explain his or her point of view.
  • Be honest. Talk seriously and don’t try to hide your feelings. This could only worsen the situation.

“Heart attack: what now?” produced by Parke-Davis, courtesy of the Heart Foundation of South Africa.

- (Updated May 2008)


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