In this section, we will discuss the importance of mind and spirit.
Taking care of yourself means taking care of your whole self. Whether you are a PH patient or a PH caregiver. It is normal to go through lows after being diagnosed with a chronic illness, however when these lows are persistent and prevent someone from living their best life, they should be addressed.
Patients with chronic diseases are thought to have increased rates of anxiety and depression. Detection and management of anxiety and depression may often go missed.
In a study by Bussotti and Sommaruga, approximately 50% of adult PAH patients may have depression and/or anxiety. However, only 1 in 4 of these patients are treated. For children diagnosed with PH, there is limited screening for anxiety and depression by PH teams. Thus, we currently do not know how prevalent anxiety and depression are among these patients, suggesting a need for PH teams to screen and help patients who do screen positive. For people with anxiety and depression or other mental health disorders, seeing professionals for therapy or counseling or both can be life-changing and even life-saving. You can talk to your PH team for resources.
In addition, social connections are also important to living a healthy life. Human beings are social creatures, so most of us thrive on at least some social interactions. Connecting with families and friends is invaluable in living day-to-day with pulmonary hypertension. Many people also find support and comfort in faith-based organizations. These connections can help you on many levels. Others find support on social media-based support pages. These can be a great resource. However, if you do have questions about information shared on these pages, please reach out to your PH team.
Mindfulness and meditation have gained popularity to assist with working through stress and anxiety. There are organizations as well as applications (apps) for learning these techniques. Headspace and Calm are popular apps, and Ten Percent Happier is another great app that has lessons on how to practice mindfulness and meditation. Mindful.org is a website which also offers several mindfulness and meditation suggestions with descriptions of the free programs as well as pricing for some of the more comprehensive ones. If you do yoga or Pilates, or if you work with a therapist, you may have done exercises that center on the breath.
Exercise is also really important for managing stress. The physical release of movement and motion can help alleviate the physical issues that accompany stressful situations. In the book, The Burnout Code, the authors discuss the differences in stressors and stress. While stressors may be persistent, the physiologic response to the stressors, meaning what our body does in reaction to the stressors, is something we can help alleviate, and movement/exercise is one really effective way to do this.
If you are in urgent need of mental health support you can call 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. Just dial or text 988. Click here for more information
Bussotti M, Sommaruga M. Anxiety and depression in patients with pulmonary hypertension: impact and management challenges. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2018 Nov 8;14:349-360. doi: 10.2147/VHRM.S147173. PMID: 30510427; PMCID: PMC6231438.