Can Stress Cause Chest Pain?

It might start with chest pain, mostly on the left side, that of course makes you think you might be having a heart attack. The pain may radiate to the left arm or it may turn into a hot flush. This hot flush is like a heat wave that rushes upward into the face. Maybe it happens when you are stressed, nervous, have a presentation to make, made an error at work or are upset with someone.

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You brush it off the first time it happens or it may be severe enough you go to the ER thinking you are having a heart attack only for them to tell you to go home and rest – it’s just stress.

But wait…if stress is causing these symptoms…it’s alarming right? It’s scary right?

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I’m here to tell you that these symptoms shouldn’t be ignored because YES – if you keep ignoring these symptoms you very well could end up being in that 20% of individuals that have a heart attack on a Monday morning between 5 – 10 am.

Why Mondays? They start the work week and are the most stressful days of the week.

Why Monday morning? Cortisol rises in the morning naturally to wake us up yet combine that with increased stress causing cortisol to rise further and you get a perfect storm for your sympathetic nervous system.

What’s happening?

We are all still cave people. Anything that stresses us out – whether it’s a change in routine like we didn’t sleep enough, phone call from work before you’ve started work, a fight with a loved one, your alarm clock didn’t go off, you can’t find your car keys, your kiddo won’t eat their breakfast….you name it anything that “irritates” you can elevate your cortisol.

Neurologically anything that irritates us can be seen as a small bear chasing after us if our nervous system is on high alert thinking that there is a bear at every corner.

How does this happen?

Most of the time our cortisol levels become out of balance when we go through a major life event such as a surgery, a car accident, work or live in a stressful environment, have a child, get married, have a significant injury or illness. For some there’s a particular traumatic event that occurs in their life. For others they were born into a stressful environment at home and their nervous system was trained early on to be on high alert.

Essentially, for most there is some event or series of events that put the body in a constant sympathetic fight or flight nervous system state. Top those events with the fast paced environment that we live in, constantly connected to electronics and you get stress coming at you from multiple angles.

The good news is there are ways to convince your cave person brain and neurological system that the bear is not around the corner, right next to you or just about to get you.

It starts with slowing down and calming the nervous system.

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Breathing is key.

Stop everything and try it right now!

  1. Step away from your computer
  2. Put your cell phone aside
  3. Sit up straight or lie down if you can with your palms up on your thighs
  4. Start by taking a 5 count inhale – count in your head – one one thousand, two one thousand ….there ya go you got it
  5. Now exhale counting to 7
  6. Repeat
  7. Each time you exhale drop your shoulders down, let them relax and fall away from your neck

Way to go – ok do 10 of these

You are now on your way to re-setting your nervous system – a key component in managing everyday stress!

Tomorrow try this before getting out of bed and once you get to work.

Then see if you can keep it going each day.

Do as many rounds as you like during the day.

Do it whenever you are feeling stressed.

I love to hear from you – let me know how it’s going!

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