It was stress-related, but Henry didn’t know it. He woke up at 4 in the morning with a racing heart. It beat loud and hard like a car engine. His chest felt like it was on fire.
‘I thought I had a heart attack’ he recalls.
‘My body shook violently across my shoulders and down into chest — it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I honestly had no idea what was happening to me.’
‘I awakened my wife and asked her to take me to the hospital. After a few minutes, I walked into ER. Three days later, all test came back negative. The doctor said it was stress. I felt like I was a failure. Only losers get stressed.’
Henry is a big strong man; he presented as if he could handle anything. The doctor fought back a smile and offered no further treatment.
‘I didn’t really understand what stress was, or what causes it. All I know is, that when I felt it, I had a few drinks and dealt with it. What worked before didn’t work anymore.’
Eventually, Henry discovered that anything that affects your body’s ability to maintain balance physiologically is stress.
Over the next few weeks, he was fearful of another attack. He sought out other medical opinions — every expert he saw came to the same conclusion: he had a panic attack triggered by stress.
He was advised to avoid stress, but that was impossible.
While work was a factor in exacerbating his stress, Henry felt increasingly frustrated because he was unable to quit his job. At 47 he has few job prospects.
Henry had a family to support and was fearful of disappointing them. His wife encouraged him to get proper treatment, hopefully without medication — they did not believe in it.
‘I told myself to persevere, but it seemed like my next panic attack was always lurking close by.’
Got a Grip
Recently, Henry’s finally got a hold on things after seeing a stress coach.
‘I was taught that the problem is the interaction between perspectives and responses. I shouldn’t just concentrate on the symptoms of stress, without looking into what is making me feel this way.’
The first step is to accept that that stress is taking a toll.
Identify the Cause
Identify the cause of your stress. Here, work is a significant contributing factor.
‘My stress coach helped me identify what is causing all of this. It is job-oriented — I took my work home with me every night and worried about it until I fell asleep.’
Start by creating an action plan to lessen work pressure. For example, stop working long hours and stop taking on too many tasks.
There are various options that may be used to relieve stress and anxiety including:
- progressive muscle relaxation
- deep breathing
- regular aerobic exercise
- proper work/life balance
Thoughts Produce Feelings
Henry learned that thoughts produce feelings. He was advised to try looking at things differently. When we change our view, we change our reality.
‘My boss always gave me last-minute assignments with to deadlines. I would worry about how I would I be able to complete my other tasks? I felt anger and extreme pressure.’
Assume, Henry continues to get work assignments with deadlines. He can choose how he reacts to it. He should try a different reaction — to see what feeling is possible other than anger and frustration.
Henry learned new skills and utilized them. When tasked with last minute assignments, he asked his boss if there is anything that can slide over into tomorrow to make room for it.
Instead of stress, he had a feeling of empowerment.
Moving forward, Henry tried to change the way he thought about the situation. Now he says to himself; it is fantastic that the supervisor thinks so highly of him.
Realistically, as long as Henry worked in that toxic environment, where his time is not valued, this type of work dumping will continue. But at least he can maintain some form of balance until he can move on.
‘Finding the underlying cause of my panic attack, and finding the right approach makes it easier to manage,’ he says.
‘I suspect there are lots of people, like me, who has stress-related health problems and need help. I think I have it under control, for now.’