Stress can lead to all sorts of diseases and take away your physical ability to do the things you love. It can also challenge your inner calmness, and take away your perception of reality. Take it from me, it's not worth it. Your family needs you more than you know, and so do your friends and colleagues etc. The good news is you can lessen your daily stressors. Here's how to start...
KERRIE'S SELF-CARE TIP #1:
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND SEE A DOCTOR
Add these words to your daily life: "Be aware, implement self-care." It's so important at any age. Whether you write them on the bathroom mirror, in a journal, or on a sticky note and post on your dashboard of the car.
I remember back in 2013 when I ignored the warning signs and what my body was telling me. I chalked it up to normal holiday stress and every day living. You too may think that those aches and pains are normal monthly or daily trivial results of life, however if you experience a massive migraine for two weeks straight, you've got to realize that's not normal.
Of course I'm not a doctor, but I can speak about what happened to me and how I ended up having a heart procedure at the age of 39. I know all too well that nagging pressure on my chest and around to my back, and my constant headaches were sure signs something was up.
Four years later, I finally understand why I should have gone to the doctor immediately.
But life got in the way. Who has time for a heart attack?
So my advice is if you feel anything unusual or long-lasting, or you're overwhelmed at work or home, see a professional. Perhaps taking a personal day from work could be the best thing you do to refresh and catch up on some "me" time.
Please know that asking for help or admitting you need some time to yourself is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength.
In fact, we have to start thinking differently. We could be young, in shape, in great spirits, or maybe even just young at heart; but this doesn't always stop our bodies from deciding to take the lead in a health trauma situation. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.
Ever since my book My Heart, My Self was released in October, I've received many messages from women I don't know telling me how much they appreciate the advice to seek help. Some were even inspired enough to make an appointment with their GP or talk to their teen daughters about the detrimental impact that stress can have on the body. Take it from me, listening to your body and being aware at all times is critical to your health. And health leads to lifestyle happiness.
Remember, if you do talk to a doctor and it ends up being nothing, and they give you the "all clear", those very words might at the very least alleviate some weight on your shoulders. And you might even feel better.
Three days ago I had a Cardiac Ablation or RFA (Radiofrequency Ablation) to rectify my heart’s short circuit. Basically, without getting too technical, an electrophysiologist conducted an Electrophysiology Study (EPS) to test my heart’s electrical system and how it works, and once he figured out the areas that weren't working, he destroyed (ablated) the "dead spots". It's called an "AV Node Ablation due to a Slow Pathway."
Turns out I had an unusual dual-pathway where the blood flowed and this is what was giving me problems when pumping blood to my heart. So one of the pathways was eliminated. The procedure was quite invasive. Four catheters were inserted into my blood vessels (veins) on both sides of my groin and moved along until they reached my heart. Radio frequency energy traveled through the catheters in order to “silence” the cells where the abnormal rhythm was coming from.
I remember laying on the operating table anxiously watching the numbers on the screen. The surgeon instructed the “heart pace” technician to elevate my heartbeat to 250 bpm into a state of tachycardia, and then slow it down to normal, and then up again to 300 bpm, and so on. This went on for two hours so you can imagine how uncomfortable it was.
Even though I knew I was in good hands, and in a controlled environment in the hospital, I had no control over what my heart was doing and felt very overwhelmed and constricted; not knowing if my heart would stop at any time. But the deal was that they had to emulate the irregular heart episodes I'd been having because they've been interrupting my normal way of life. And at 40, with two small kids, this wasn't ideal. So when they finally found the faulty circuits, an electrical surge was sent down the tubes -- and I felt the burning sensation (heat) as they burned the dead areas in my heart.
After it was all over, and I was back in my bed, I had a panic attack when two nurses were putting pressure on my incisions. They were pressing so hard on the four tubes to stop the bleeding that I instantly felt faint. They called two more nurses in to help and immediately dosed me with Gravol to calm me down. I remember the exact same symptoms when I had a panic attack a year ago in the cafeteria at work -- cold sweats, feeling sick, and not knowing whether to fight or flight the scene. Then I cried uncontrollably. The nurses at the Trillium Cardiac Health Centre were amazing and knew exactly how to get me through it. A half an hour later, I fell asleep.
After I woke up, the doctor came to speak to my husband and I about how the procedure was a success. Then I was allowed to get up and take a few steps. But when I did, a pool of blood gushed from the top of my right leg. The blood did not clot at one of my incisions and there was blood all over the hospital floor. The nurses rushed me back to the bed and applied more pressure in order to avoid losing too much blood. They said it could have been a result of me not going to the washroom and my full bladder was putting pressure on my groin. But finally, after more pressure, I was able to get up and go to the washroom (I couldn’t even force myself to go on the bed pan).
The next day, I was instructed to take it easy and move slowly. I had to hold my incisions every time I sat up or down or used the stairs, but I could have a shower and take the bandages off. I felt some periodic shooting pains in my chest and an aching pain in my groin where it was starting to bruise. I also felt a pressure on my left side that went through to my shoulder blade – similar to how I felt last January (2013) when I had my initial heart scare. (Read my full story in Chatelaine magazine.)
Today I am walking more, but still slowly, and feel much better. The doctor told me not to go back on my heart meds and wait to see how I feel at our next follow up appointment in 8 weeks. I am hopeful that my fast heart beat does not come back, and so far, it's looking good. I am so thankful for my family and friends who are here to help me.
I hope to (in some small way) help others who may have noticed some irregularities in their heartbeat, unusual shortness of breath, or panic attacks, and alert those who are under a lot of stress. Don't sit back and think it's nothing, because it could lead to further complications down the road. Believe me, if there's one thing I've learned from my heart journey over the past 13 months, it's to listen to my body. Please call your doctor today and be heart aware. Stay well.
Kerrie Lee Brown is a sought-after health and lifestyle expert. She writes books, blogs and articles and is published all over the world. Kerrie Lee is also a heart-health survivor and has appeared on numerous radio and television shows sharing life-saving tips for women on how to listen to their bodies and slow down. Kerrie Lee is a mom and proud Canadian living in Denver, Colorado.