If you do the right thing at the right moment, you have the chance to recover and get out of this vicious circle of SVT triggered by anxiety and vice versa. In those moments, you have to do a lot of mental work in order to not let fear get ground.
There is no magic pill or revolutionary solution. You have to take action no matter how hard it seems and put in the effort to get out of that rut.
The battle against anxiety after an SVT attack focuses on your attention and thoughts. If you can concentrate on something other than the situation you are in and manage not to let your mind fabricate scenarios you have no certainty are true, you have won 70 percent of the fight.
My Story of Anxiety Due to SVT
I was diagnosed with SVT in 2018, following an EKG made by the team from the ambulance I called. Since then, I have been trying to find the cause of this condition and keep it under control without medication or ablation.
Things went well until January 2022, when I lost a loved one, and a particularly stressful period followed in my life. Episodes of SVT began to multiply alarmingly, followed by anxiety. There were days when I had three episodes a day, and it took me a long time to recover.
The anxiety after SVT episodes was so great that I felt constant pain in my stomach, which was also reflected in my chest, neck, and hands. I had the impression that any activity caused me an SVT. I had attacks while driving, in the shop, walking, and even sitting.
The intense anxiety seemed to overload me with fear and paralyze my mind and actions. I became afraid of leaving the house.
What made these events even scarier were the low levels of oxygen saturation. Soon the anxiety become panic attacks. The road to recovery was difficult but what is important is that now I have managed to keep these episodes under control.
First Steps In Dealing With Anxiety
Looking back, I realize the critical moment in this recovery process is what I did immediately after an SVT episodes.
I want to share with you all the steps I took in dealing with the anxiety that comes after an SVT attack.
After an SVT episode passes, anxiety or panic attack may set in. And that makes you tense, unable to relax. Your body enters a kind of alert state when it is prepared to fight or run away. Every muscle fiber is unconsciously tense.
Being in a continuous state of pressure is detrimental because stress hormones are secreted abundantly, blood vessels narrow, the heart pumps harder, and the heart rate increases.
If this pattern is not interrupted, it can indefinitely continue until it depletes emotional and physical resources, predisposing to another SVT or even developing other diseases.
What to do in such a situation? You do everything needed to feel comfortable and relaxed and maintain your heart rate low. The steps are as follows:
- If you are just a few seconds after converting an SVT episode, keep ice on your forehead, neck, or chest. It helps to keep your heart rate low.
- As often as possible, check in with yourself, notice how tense you are, and intentionally relax your whole body.
- The jaw and muscles of the face can be very stiff. Position your tongue between your front teeth for a few seconds to relax the jaw. You will immediately feel the tension in your face drop.
- Press H7 and LU9 points located close to your wrist and hold them for 30 to 60 seconds. It has the effect of reducing the heartbeat but also relaxing the whole body. I wrote in detail about this here.
- Use some magnesium spray topically.
- Get a glass of coconut water and sip it slowly to replenish the potassium levels.
- Lie on your back with your feet at 45 degrees for 30 minutes, covered with a blanket to stabilize the heart rate. If you have ever done an aerobic class, you know that there is 5-10 minute stretching to calm you down at the end of the class. It is the same when your heart starts a marathon without you. Relaxation avoids storing the tension caused by SVT and increases the level of oxygen that goes to the tissues, organs and muscles.
Acknowledge Anxiety Without Wanting to Get Rid of It
Acknowledge your anxiety and symptoms and the fact that they will not last forever.
Don’t ignore them. You can say: I feel anxious right now. I feel pain in my upper stomach that goes on my chest, neck, and arms. Other symptoms are nausea and dizziness. Ok.
These are the symptoms, they are not pleasant, but they will pass.
Don’t try to force the anxiety out of your life. The more you fight against it, the more it will grow because you send messages to your brain that you don’t accept it as part of life.
The truth is, it is part of life but not as intense as you feel it now. The key is to know how to sit and accept your emotions before changing them.
Redirect Your Thoughts to Something Else
After an SVT episode, my body started to shake from the constant release of adrenaline while my pulse oscillated between 90 and 100 beats per minute.
I was lying on my back observing my thoughts with ice on one hand and an oximeter on the other.
The fear that the episode might come back or was not over yet is hard to describe. I intentionally focused my attention on something else. I am not saying it was always easy or successful, but I tried repeatedly. I didn’t let the emotion overwhelm me.
Here are the actions I took in an alternate pattern:
- Count from 1 to 10, and don’t let your mind wander elsewhere. It is a very old technique that helps you calm down.
- Touch one object near you and describe the texture. Repeat for as many items you can reach. This exercise will help you anchor yourself in the present.
- Think of something or someone that makes you feel safe. For example, thinking of my husband, who was next to me, being aware of his presence reduced my feeling of anxiety for a moment.
- Correlate the sensations you feel during the panic attack with something other than the SVT episode. For instance, the tension, that awkward feeling in the chest, and pressure in the throat and arms is given by the meal I ate two hours ago and is not a result of SVT. Now I’m going to drink some ginger tea and feel better.
- Create an uplifting and positive environment. Put some relaxing music in the background, something cheerful, or your favorite motivational video. Find funny videos to watch. Laughter is medicine.
You won’t be able to do these exercises for a very long time because they require quite a lot of mental effort. If you feel tired after a few minutes, move on to the next category.
Take a piece of paper, start writing only positive things about your situation, and say them aloud. It could be something like these:
- I’m really good.
- My heart is healthy.
- It is nothing wrong with my heart.
- My pulse is within the normal limits of 60-70 beats per minute.
Side note: According to the doctor, a normal heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. So even if your heart rate is a little higher than usual, it is still within normal limits.
- I feel good.
- I will sleep for 15 minutes and wake up full of energy and ready to continue my day as I want.
- My sleep will be profound, complete, and regenerating.
- I am safe.
- I’m relaxed.
- I am perfectly balanced and harmonious mentally, emotionally, and physically.
- Everything is under control.
Rely on Somebody Bigger Than You
One of the most effective ways to manage my anxiety was to read the Bible. My favorite passages were Psalms and some verses that specifically address anxiety. I would read and repeat those verses for 20 to 30 minutes.
Anxiety paralyzes you, making you afraid of the future. The magic happens when you realize somebody is there to sustain, support, and take all your worry away. Then you are free.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.Psalm 34:4
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.2 Thessalonians 3:16
This is why we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, and I won’t be afraid. What can people do to me?Hebrews 13:6
What Not to Do After an SVT
The advantage of using the oximeter is to assess the situation when you have an SVT, but there is no need to use the oximeter frequently throughout the day.
If the oximeter shows 160 beats per minute, it will be enough to put ice on your forehead and neck and sit on your back with your feet raised to 45 degrees. But if it indicates a pulse of 250 beats per minute, you do not want to waste time and immediately apply the Valsalva maneuver. This is the situation where the oximeter is very useful.
However, if the episode has passed but you still have a pulse of 90-100 beats per minute, and you keep checking your pulse every 5 minutes, it is of no use. On the contrary, it will maintain your state of agitation, anxiety, and fear.
The slightly increased pulse after an attack is not due to the supraventricular tachycardia but most likely due to the following fear. After an episode, repeated use of the oximeter increases your anxiety and feeds your worry.
If you still want to use it to check oxygen saturation, use it a maximum of 3 times a day when you are relaxed in bed or on a chair.