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Warning Signal

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Patients often come in with complaints about their heart like chest tightness or palpitations. Their story usually also includes a situation at work or home that has been


The tunnel

I will run the ECG and blood tests and perhaps recommend doing a treadmill test or other investigations. After we have ruled out any heart problems, patients are generally reassured and inclined to dismiss the episode. They may even feel a bit embarrassed about having been worried about a more trivial complaint like heartburn.

Photo credit Unsplash: Margaux Bellott

But I always ask a question before they slip back into their normal routine. It’s meant to remind them that these symptoms were probably an early warning signal from the body. The question is: “What’s the light at the end of the tunnel?”

The funny thing is that they never ask, “What tunnel?” They always know they’re stuck in one.

Stress coping

Even before the pandemic, most of us had a tendency to get so caught up in the busyness of daily life that we couldn’t tell when we were overstressed. But this past year our options for coping with stress have narrowed significantly. Depending on where you live, it isn’t so easy to go to the gym, get outdoors, have a chat with loved ones over a meal, or get away for a vacation.

We can sometimes lose sight of the fact that we always have options

I have noticed that most people are really good at absorbing stress for months and even years on end. But we are not so good at reading the signals that our bodies are sending us. We may notice that our tempers are shorter. We may have trouble focusing or feel exhausted even early in the day. Some of us may hold tension in our necks or backs, have headaches or gut complaints, and for others it’s disrupted sleep.

Breaking point

We would of course prefer to brush off minor physical complaints - after all, most of the time our bodies do a reasonably good job of getting over stuff. So how are we supposed to know when we may actually be getting near the breaking point?

Looking at how you feel in your body is a good place to start. How is your energy level day to day? Are you able to do the things you want to do at home and at work? What nagging complaints are you living with day to day, the ones that get in the way of you enjoying life?

Photo credit: nikko macaspac on Unsplash

What actions are you taking to cope with stress? Are you over-worrying, over-consuming information from Dr Google, over-working, overdrinking? Or are you over-exercising so that you can fall asleep more easily from exhaustion?

Getting unstuck

Turns out that the solution is rarely an action nor is it “out there”. The wisdom is actually within you already. It’s a matter of finding the courage to face up to what you really want. You know what it is, and more importantly your body knows. And your body can’t be at peace until you are ready to stop living someone else’s life and be in integrity with yourself.

What if you were to give yourself permission to believe that you were not as trapped as you think in your job, in your relationship, with your financial situation? What if you were to choose to put your own needs first (for once) instead of others’? What if you can ONLY help your loved ones by living in your truth first?

We can sometimes lose sight of the fact that we ALWAYS have options. Give yourself a chance to believe that there definitely is a light at the end of the tunnel. The question is do you have the courage to get yourself around the next corner so you can see it.


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