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Non-stop Anxiety, Health Problems, after Cardiac Scare – What to Do?

29 Jul

Hi Belleruth,
I would like to get a tape for a friend who has had a series of health issues after having a cardiac event, which in the end turned out to be nothing serious, although she was quite scared.

She was healthy and vibrant before the event. Now it seems like there is non-stop health issues (digestive issues, odd pains, hypervigilance, fear everything is cancer, etc.), some of which are likely psychosomatic in nature.

What tape would you suggest for her to recover her past health and well being? Thank you!
Mary Lou

Hello, Mary Lou.
It sounds like your friend has all the symptoms of posttraumatic stress, which is not uncommon following a scary cardiac event.  (It doesn't matter if it turned out to be not such a serious health problem - it's the terrified helplessness at the time of the situation that activates those pesky, survival-driven, neurohormone soaked, alarm systems.  And when that biochemistry doesn't go back into balance but stays in hyper-gear for months - that's PTS.

Believe it or not, there's a high correlation between digestive issues and all manner of functional pain conditions and PTS.  It's not really 'psychosomatic' - in fact that term may no longer be meaningful, given what we've come to understand these days.  More likely, it's about trapped, accrued, pain-generating kinens in the muscle tissue and joints, from all the cascading alarm biochemicals and alternating sedating biochemicals that occur with PTS and don't get rinsed out, as the body seeks balance.  (If you want a more complete explanation, you can check out Chapter 5, The Physical Effects of Trauma, in my book Invisible Heroes.  But that's the bottom line for what you're asking.)

And of course, hypervigilance and anxiety are part of the very definition of PTS - no mystery there.

So I'd suggest your friend start out with some simple self-regulation tools first.  This could be guided imagery, like our Relaxation and Wellness; or Andy Weil's Breathwork exercises; or something like Sacred Pause or AM and PM Meditations - any meditative exercise that teaches  her how to calm herself down at will - or re-regulate her biochemistry by going on 'manual' if you will.  

Once she gets used to that - maybe after 2 or 3 weeks - she can move on to the Healing Trauma imagery; or to a tapping therapy, such as Mary Sise's Thought Field Therapy video exercises.    

But don't overload her with too much stuff at once - you'll just overwhelm her and she won't do any of it.  Instead, just get her one item and see how she responds to it.  

And if she's a cerebral type, get her the book (please link) so she can see why any of this stuff makes good sense for her to do (and the explanation of what PTS is and how it's activated could be very reassuring to her.  Because it's likely she thinks she's going nuts. And she isn't.  She has PTS.)

You're a good friend to go to the trouble of asking for her.  

Best of luck to you both,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award