How does one navigate day-to-day life with heart failure during this pandemic?
In adjusting to new aspects of day-to-day life, which include remote working from home, with everyone at home, and reduced time spent outside the house, I looked at several changes in my routine.
1. Just get up and start the day.
The way one wakes up in the morning has a big impact on the rest of the day. So, one approach I have designed for myself is, I try to get out of bed based on the time I planned the evening before. I do have days I decide to start the day slow, to remain balanced, making sure I do not stress my body too much. My ‘get off the bed’ time is around 7 am (this is around the time our soon have their daily commute to our bed, with their blankets and pillows). I often wake up earlier than that perhaps due to my mind racing or one of the boys waking up earlier. In those cases, I stay in bed for a few minutes longer until 8 am.
2. Get right into the morning routine.
I begin my morning routine right away. It is built around a few positive and supportive habits and behaviors: 5-10 minutes of morning meditation or prayers. Next, I take my morning meds. Then, I take care of a few other small but important things around the house like making the bed,…, and brushing my teeth, and wash up.
3. Eat an early breakfast.
My goal is to eat an early breakfast (past week has been failed on this goal). I would something light and rich in fiber like 1/2 cup of whole-grain natural cereal with a bit of 1%-fat milk. Des (with the occasional help of our firstborn) has been baking fresh bread at home. On some days, I take a slice with some peanut butter, chocolate spread, or jam. I have also been trying to be more consistent with some tea in the morning. This quick and simple breakfast plan is usually enough to get my day started well.
4. Exercise in the morning.
The next activity is the one I like the most: an exercise in the morning, enough to get the ‘happy’ and ‘energizing’ hormones bouncing. I aim for 30 – 60 minutes of daily physical exercise. Those days, I clean up after the sweating session.
5. Sleep (or try your best to sleep).
Sleeping has never been my thing. Growing up, I was always a light sleeper and would often be the first up in the morning. This was particularly helpful during my university years when burning the midnight light was the prerequisite. But, for a heart failure patient, insomnia is not helpful.
I think a few additional factors contribute to this unhealthy habit. Perhaps, it is caused by stress, my heart condition, the medications I take. Caffeine can be ruled out as I am not a coffee drinker and I rarely have tea. It could also be linked by other sleep disorders or my depressive episodes.
In any case, to help me sleep better, we keep our bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. I try to get regular exercise, and, I try to practice a healthy evening routine:
- be consistent with the time I wake-up and go to sleep.
- take some melatonin supplements, 30-60 mins before bed, to help regulate my sleep.
- do some meditation, breathing, or relaxation exercises to help calm my mind.
- read or listen to a book to a wind-down time before bed.
- put away my phone to charge far from my reach and far from my bedside table (at least two hours before bedtime).