Heart Failure - Managing Stress and Intimacy

Managing stress is also an important part of managing your heart condition.

Managing stress is also an important part of managing your heart condition.

Managing Stress

You should be aware that you may experience feelings of depression, anxiety or fear because of your heart disease. These emotions can be distressing and affect your overall sense of well-being.

Such emotional stress may cause your heart to work excessively, and worsen your symptoms. Hence, it is important that you:

  • learn to recognise these emotions
  • take positive steps to cope with life stressors and
  • continue to live a healthy and happy life, despite having a heart condition.

Related: Be a Master of Stress

12 ways to help you cope with stress:

  1. Talk to someone you trust about your concerns, feelings and stressors.
  2. Seek emotional support from your family, close friends or colleagues.
  3. Learn to let go and accept things you cannot change. No one is able to solve all of life's problems.
  4. Learn to recognise and accept your pent up feelings and frustrations.
  5. Focus your attention on the positives rather than on the negatives.
  6. Be prepared for stressful periods and plan for them.
  7. Listen to your favourite music when doing chores.
  8. Do not try to cope with stress by smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating and turning to drugs. They will only make things worse.
  9. Exercise regularly. Do something you enjoy, e.g. swimming, jogging, golfing, walking a pet, tai chi or cycling.
  10. Be proactive in learning how to manage your heart condition by finding out more about the disease. This will help you to feel more in control.
  11. Join a support group with people you can identify with, e.g. people with heart diseases, women/men/retired people/ grandparent groups.
  12. Learn more practical techniques on stress management and relaxation techniques from an occupational therapist.

Heart Failure and Intimacy

Most people with heart failure can continue sexual activity once their symptoms are under control. Just like any other activity, you should only go ahead when you DO NOT experience any physical discomfort such as shortness of breath and/or chest pain.

Some Guidelines:

  • Discuss with your partner about your sexual needs and concerns to overcome anxiety.
  • Choose a time when you feel relaxed, rested and not pressured.
  • Avoid having sex right after eating a heavy meal.
  • Do take on a less active role at the start.
  • Have sex in a comfortable room that is not too hot or too cold.
  • Avoid positions in which you need to support your own/partner's body weight with your arms.
  • Adopt positions that do not need you to use a lot of energy, such as you and your partner lying side by side.
  • Stop and rest at any time when you experience discomfort or feel tired during sexual intercourse.

If your condition is severe and sexual intercourse is difficult for you, try other ways of being physically intimate with your partner. You may want to consider less energy demanding ways such as hugging, kissing and mutual forms of sexual stimulation other than intercourse.

Some people with heart failure may experience sexual difficulties. Do consult your doctor or an occupational therapist if you are experiencing difficulties.

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