Patient Blogs | Atrial Fibrillation
Enforced Relaxation: How I’ve Learned to Live with AFib
photo of woman reading book outside

Some might say I’m a Type A personality: Must always be doing something. Must be productive. Always one more task to complete before I can stop. “Relaxation” is highly overrated.

This go-go-go approach to life worked fine when I was young, even though I was in 24/7 AFib. Sure, I got tired, but I just pushed through it and there weren’t significant consequences. I slept well! Post-pregnancy and living in a region with periods of significant air pollution, though, the AFib would get worse at times and I couldn’t physically keep pushing through. I had to sit down, at worst times lie down, until the air got better or my heart otherwise calmed down and the dizziness passed. I invented the concept of my “nest” – a place where I could cocoon myself (sitting up or lying down, depending on how I felt), surrounded by non-energetic things to do (reading, crocheting, computer work). It happened infrequently enough, it almost felt like a treat (almost).

I had 7 to 8 good AFib-free years after my first ablation, during which my “nest” and I lost our close connection. As the AFib episodes started occurring again after that period, ever more frequently, I spent more time in my “nest.” I was generally resentful, though, that I had to slow down due to AFib. Always thinking about the many “important” tasks I wasn’t getting done.

Now, it’s about 3 years after my second ablation. That, plus gallbladder removal surgery, has miraculously stopped the recurrent AFib episodes. (See my theory of the connection in this blog post.) I’m also retired, so there are fewer external pressures on my time. I now try to use my “nest” time proactively, to anticipate and prevent potential AFib episodes. I try to take a rest in my “nest” after lunch. (Yes, I actually read a book in the middle of the day and don’t feel guilty.)

If I’m starting to feel stressed or tired after a morning of heavy activity, I gather up tasks that can be done in my “nest” (reading, catching up on emails, writing blog posts) and settle in for a couple of hours. I pace myself, doing tasks that require movement for an hour or so, followed by something more restful, then something active, then rest.

I’ve redefined “productivity” for myself to accommodate the physical stresses of having AFib. My new strategy of enforced “relaxation” periods has so far (touch wood) been successful. No significant tasks have gone undone, and I’ve avoided having debilitating AFib episodes. Guess listening to your body’s cues is a good idea after all!



Photo Credit: Loungepark / Photodisc via Getty Images

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Michele Straube

Michele Straube

Diagnosed since 1979

Michele Straube has lived with atrial fibrillation (AFib) for 42 years. Recently retired from a long career as an environmental mediator, her plans include travel and trailer camping with husband Bob and puppy Tux. She currently teaches ESL to adult immigrants and refugees, and she delivers Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors. She enjoys chatting with AFib patients to explore their path to living with the condition.

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