Since having an atrial fibrillation episode and finding few clues on what may have caused it (even after a very thorough battery of medical tests), I am going to do the following things (and may add to my list as time goes by):
1. I will follow my doctor’s orders. The only thing my doctor suggested was that I have a study made to see if I have sleep apnea. A lack of sufficient oxygen to the heart caused by sleep apnea could have been a contributing factor in my episode. I have already scheduled a sleep apnea test.
2. One of the suggestions from the instructions for my sleep apnea was to avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, soda pop with caffeine, cocoa, or chocolate) within six hours of bedtime. If that is an influence on studying sleep apnea, it must also apply to everyday sleep. I will address this issue, though it is not a big one for me. I suspect the bigger problem for me is eating snacks while I watch TV after dinner. I am going to stop that.
3. The doctor gave me a prescription for some medication (a beta-blocker), but he said I could just use it if I sense another episode coming on. I have decided on a more cautious approach and will take the medication for a couple of months as I try to deal with my other strategies. I will keep a small supply on hand to use if symptoms recur.
4. I am going to make a concerted effort to deal with issues that may contribute to stress. These strategies already are being tested. Before I went to the hospital, we were dealing with problems with our home air conditioner at the same time we were trying to get away for a week of vacation. While I was in the hospital, the air conditioning system was checked; and no problems were found. My first morning home, however, the same problem recurred with the system. The subsequent service call revealed that we need a new control panel for our air conditioner/furnace. At least the cause appears to have been found, but here was an immediate test of my capacity to handle the kinds of little things that contribute to stress. The air conditioning service agent had hardly walked out the door before one of our commodes became stopped up. After almost all attempts to get it unstopped failed and I was on the verge of calling a plumber, we finally got the stoppage resolved, but not without making a tremendous mess on our bathroom floor. I could almost feel my heart saying, “Here I go again.” When I feel stress building up in such situations, I am going to make a concerted effort to relax. A few deep breaths and a conscious attempt to pull back from the anxiety, anger (is that what I am feeling?), and inclination to want to resolve every problem immediately will be my first line of coping mechanisms.
5. I am going to stop doing things that I know create unnecessary stress. One of these is playing timed games on Facebook and my computer. The deadline nature of these timed games adds to the excitement of them, but the excitement is just another form of unnecessary stress. I am resolved to give these up completely. Games that require problem-solving that is not driven by an artificial deadline will still be part of my computer experience (unless I begin to take them too seriously), but the rest are gone. If my friendly competitors on Bejeweled Blitz see me playing, please remind me of my resolution. This is going to require a kind of twelve-step program for me, for I have loved these games since I bought my first Atari. If I am going to reduce stress, however, I’m going to have to let this kind of stress go.
6. I am one of those people who, when I wake up in the middle of the night, find my mind going into problem-solving mode. We have spent a lot of time with the last of our home-remodeling projects during the last year. It seems that every one of these projects had something significant go wrong. Whether it has been fretting over the poor installation job done by the plumber who installed our new master bath shower stall, or our boat dock coming untethered, or our boat battery giving up the ghost, or a hundred other things, I have found myself awake for hours in the middle of the night planning strategies, considering options, or searching for solutions. The lack of sleep has for years influenced by alertness during the day. At time highway driving in the afternoon has become hazardous, trying to listen to a sermon while sitting in the choir loft has become embarrassing, and giving attention to my writing assignments has been interrupted by brief afternoon naps. Here is how I am going to attempt to address this issue:
a. I am creating a “WAT List” and will put it on my bedside table. “WAT List” stands for “Worry About Tomorrow List.” When I awake at night and begin to stew over something, I’m going to add that item to my list and then make every attempt to banish it from my mind until the next morning.
b. In conjunction with that, I am adding to the old adage: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” My addition will be: Today ends when I go to bed at night, and tomorrow doesn’t begin until I get up in the morning.” So my adaptation is, “Do not attempt to deal with any matter after you go to bed at night and before you get up the next morning. Sleep is a time of rest and relaxation, not a time to continue solving today’s problems or a chance to get ahead on tomorrow’s problems.”
If you have other ideas to add to my strategies, please feel free to contribute them.