Stress Reduction Techniques to Minimize Afib

February 12, 2024

Young adult woman stressed with head in hands.

No matter how hard we try to keep our cool, some stress always seems to be associated with family, work, friends, or finances. Even with the best-made plans, there will be hurdles to jump. It’s a fact of life. However, the stress that comes with these concerns can induce or worsen an Atrial Fibrillation or Afib episode. So, what can be done to reduce this likelihood and keep your heart in top shape?


First, let’s talk about the importance of deep breathing. Breathing correctly is crucial to reduce stress. Full breaths can slow the heartbeat and maintain control even in stressful situations. If you experience a stressful episode, find a stress-busting breathing technique that works for you. This may include holding your breath at the inhale for a second or two and then exhaling. We will discuss breathing techniques in a future blog, but certainly, be mindful if you are breathing shallowly, as this is a sign of stress and anxiety.


An essential and truly underappreciated stress-busting technique is simple and easy, and we all do it. But most of us don’t do it all that well. Sleep. It’s crucial to get those 7 to 9 hours of sleep, depending on your body’s optimal needs (we’re all different). Take cues from your body and go to bed when you feel tired. Try to wake up and go to bed around the same time each day, including weekends. Lastly, double-check your sleep hygiene, including eliminating devices an hour or two before bed, eating earlier in the day, keeping the room dark and cold, and more.

Similarly, sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of Afib and should be treated appropriately. If your partner has complained about loud snoring, or if you find yourself exhausted throughout the day, even after a full night of sleep, you may have sleep apnea. Speak to your doctor and get a sleep study if they feel it’s necessary. Treating this condition can significantly boost your quality of life and can even be a lifesaver.


Exercise is one of the most effective options for fighting stress. Whether you enjoy cardio or weightlifting, or ideally work both into the daily routine, exercise releases endorphins that energize and calm us in a way that few other activities can. You do not need to be a bodybuilder or marathon runner; just set aside some time to get your heart rate up and your muscles working. This is not only great during stressful times, but it should also be a part of your daily life to strengthen your heart and improve your health. Of course, if you have heart disease, speak to your cardiologist about appropriate exercises.

If you’re concerned about an increased heart rate during exercise, remember this differs from the heart rate changes we experience from stress. Ultimately, exercise should be supervised by your cardiologist or electrophysiologist, but for most, if it is performed within their ability, exercise is a safe and effective way to strengthen the heart muscle.

Check Your Blood

Now is a great time to see your primary care physician if you haven’t in a while and get your blood checked. Speak to them about checking for common deficiencies, some of which can increase stress, including low magnesium and vitamin D. Bloodwork is easy, covered by most insurance plans, and deficiencies can be treated quickly and effectively. There’s no reason not to know your levels.

What Triggers Your Stress

Lastly, recognize your stress triggers and hit back at the source. Most of us are triggered by stressful situations, whether at home or work, and with some introspection and mindfulness, we can often pinpoint what those triggers are and when they’re about to happen. This can give us a hand up in understanding and avoiding stressful situations or getting a handle on them sooner.

As for what to do when a stressful situation arises, some of us may enjoy a stress ball, while others benefit from a quick walk, removing themselves from the situation. Yet others may enjoy a meditation or yoga session to clear the mind. No matter the circumstance, you can always do something to eliminate the stress or give yourself a better chance of dealing with it.

Stress is a natural and normal part of life, but an inappropriate response is also a significant trigger for Afib. Long-term stress is hard on the heart and can worsen cardiovascular issues. Until we have a surefire remedy for managing stress, handling stressful situations remains firmly on our shoulders. For the sake of your heart, your health, and the progression of Afib, we strongly encourage you to take note of the stresses in your life and develop tactics and techniques to avoid them or reduce their effects.