Tag Archives: ruminating

How heart patients can untwist that twisted thinking

10 Dec

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

The freshly-diagnosed heart patient has plenty of opportunity to start thinking thoughts that are new, bizarre and sometimes even frightening. Any life-altering diagnosis can throw us off-balance emotionally, but with heart disease, even the tiniest twinge of new chest pain can paralyze us. Is this something? Is it nothing? Should I call 911 again? As Australian cardiac psychologist (and more importantly, a heart patient) Len Gould likes to say: “Before a heart attack, every twinge is just indigestion. After a heart attack, every twinge is another heart attack!”

And our worried thoughts can stick around far longer than they should, as we play them over and over and over like our first Beatles album. Mental health professionals call this kind of twisted thinking cognitive distortion. Continue reading

Resilience: it’s hard to feel like a victim when you’re laughing

18 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Somebody recently described my presentations on women’s heart disease as “part stand-up comedy and part serious cardiology talk!” I think she was right. I now believe, in fact, that some parts of my own heart attack story are downright hilarious. In hindsight, of course.

They weren’t one bit amusing when they were actually happening.

Authors Drs. Steven J. Wolin and Sybil Wolin would likely say that this ability to see humour in a catastrophic health crisis can be a key ingredient in healing resiliency. In their book The Resilient Self, they describe creativity and humour respectively in this way: “they turn nothing into something and something into nothing.”   Continue reading

Do you think too much? How ruminating hurts your heart

2 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Before my heart attack, I was a champion ruminator. Give me an ugly little problem to worry about, and I’d thrash it to death before finally flinging it aside in a fit of exhaustion, usually after some sleepless nights, a few extra grey hairs, and incalculable damage to my poor coronary arteries.

Yale University professor Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema’s research(1) has revealed some interesting facts about ruminating:

“When people ruminate about problems, they remember more negative things that have happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future.”

Research also links the habit of rumination with dangerously high levels of the body’s artery-damaging stress hormones like cortisol. Continue reading

A heart patient’s guide to the three stages of chronic stress

11 Oct

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by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

McGill University’s Centre for Studies on Human Stress at L’Hôpital Louis H. Lafontaine in Montréal is a remarkably helpful resource for those of you who are so chronically stressed day to day that you no longer think this state of being is even abnormal anymore.

Anybody who has undergone ongoing chaos in the workplace, a family health crisis, a divorce, a death in the family, serious financial worries, too darned many deadlines, and many other of life’s realities can recognize the symptoms of chronic stress – but did you know that this low-grade stress is extremely damaging to our hearts?

In fact, the World Health Organization has predicted that by 2020, stress-related disorders like heart disease and depression will be in the top two leading causes of disability in adults. According to the Centre for Studies On Human Stress, there are three distinct stages of chronic stress.  See if any of these sound familiar:  Continue reading

Even heart patients can learn to be optimists

16 Jul

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by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I’ve been ruminating (something that female heart patients apparently tend to do when feeling depressed) about the writing of Dr. Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the excellent book, Learned Optimism. He writes:

“Optimism is not about ignoring what’s real, but becoming aware of your thoughts about why things happen.”

What’s really at the heart of optimism, Dr. Seligman adds, is how you explain negative experiences to yourself. When something bad happens to a pessimist, she’s likely to get into a sort of dark and hopeless mental muttering that has her thinking things like:

“Why me? Ain’t it awful? It’s permanent and everything is ruined and it’s all their fault.” Continue reading