When it comes to managing heart failure, I think the concept of tolerance plays a significant role in how much success you will achieve. Bear in mind that the word tolerance has a number of definitions, and so there are a number of aspects of tolerance that will contribute to better management of your condition.
The first definition that the Merriam Webster Dictionary website provides is: the capacity to endure pain or hardship: endurance, fortitude and stamina. So this definition pertains to heart failure management in the following ways. First, it is a health condition that will cause you a lot of hardship in your life that will likely increase as time passes. Examples are shortness of breath, fatigue, confusion, strict diet and fluid restrictions, and anxiety. The best way I have found to handle these hardships is with a reality check. They aren’t going away absent a miracle cure. But if I am really vigilant with medication and good habits then my ability to endure this hardship increases. Or in other words, I learn how to tolerate the hardships better and they become less intimidating.
I also like the concept of stamina. Stamina means staying power and persistence, and thanks to my Mom, I have a great reserve of this quality. It has come in handy when it comes to managing a pretty aggressive exercise schedule – well aggressive for someone with a damaged heart. I have been known over the years to be a bit of an exercise fanatic. But the benefits of exercise are cited by many heart experts – not just me.
For example, the Cleveland Clinic website has an article entitled “Heart Failure: Exercise and Activity”. It lists the following as just some of the benefits of regular exercise activity:
I’m not sure that it has strengthened my heart and cardiovascular system – since I can’t see inside my body to see if there is any improvement. But it seems to me that I am holding my own or maybe seeing a little improvement when it comes to the number of stairs I can climb or inclines I can walk before I get winded. I have been able to see definite improvement to the muscle tone in my legs and arms as well as my balance and my flexibility.
So I believe that everything I read in the articles on heart and exercise is accurate, as I can see some tangible benefits. Even on the hottest and most tiring of days, I use the proof of benefits to motivate me to do some exercise, even if it is just resistance exercise out of the heat and inside my air-conditioned condo. It builds my capacity to endure – or in other words improves my tolerance.
The Cambridge English dictionary website has a definition that resonated with me during this very hot and humid summer: the ability to bear something unpleasant or annoying, or to keep going despite difficulties. The example the dictionary provides illustrates this definition is: I don’t have much tolerance for hot, humid weather. Wow – that example really captured my state of mind every minute of every day when the temperature rose above 90. I really did not have any tolerance for it, and it was very difficult for me to be out and about in it. In fact, I stressed whenever I knew I was going to have to venture out in the weather. I basically tolerated the awful heat by timing and limiting my exposure to the heat.
So far, the definitions relate to how we as individuals are able to withstand hardship, build endurance and deal with unpleasant circumstances. But tolerance also has definitions that relate to our ability to tolerate those around us. For example, another definition for tolerance at the Merriam Webster dictionary website is: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own.
In life, this type of tolerance, or lack thereof, will undoubtedly have an impact in the following contexts: (1) in the workplace in dealing co-workers who have different workstyles, different views, or different personalities; or (2) in private life in settings where political or faith beliefs are discussed. Let’s start with the work setting first.
The buzz term that I often hear when someone has an office conflict is that the person is a “toxic co-worker”. I don’t want to take that term lightly, because there truly are toxic people out there. But as much as I hear the term, I begin to wonder if it is so much that the people are toxic, or that the two people engaged in a work relationship need a refresher course in turning the other cheek. I make this observation after briefly scanning a number of items about toxic co-workers. It seemed like almost every personality type imaginable could at some point fit into a category of toxic co-worker. I think the word “toxic” really needs to apply only when each personality type is taken to the extreme and/or the behavior is intended to be disruptive or even malicious.
I also make this observation after recalling stories about toxic co-workers that I’ve heard over the years. By and large, they seem to be more about people not listening well to each other, or acting without thinking about how it might impact each other, or just approaching work and peer relations from different points of view. These people create less of a toxic environment than one that is selfish, discourteous or unprofessional. Certainly these are annoying and even ill-mannered people but not really “toxic”. Unfortunately, if we fixate on annoying and rude behavior, it may negatively impact our physical and emotional tolerance.
The other context where intolerance can reign is being in the world at large discussing matters of politics or faith. On the upside – unlike in the workplace, if you do not like the point of view someone is expressing you can always leave. You do not have to stay around and help generate a product or market a service.
Yet people may choose not to exercise that freedom of movement because they are passionate about their view, which is integral to their identity, and they want to be free to express it even if others disagree. Sometimes these conversations are without incident and are healthy and productive. Other times, not so much. Again what is often missing is the tolerance to respect another person’s views yet still disagree.
I found a helpful article at the Chopra Center website. It is entitled “8 tips to build tolerance in your life.” The article starts out with the observation that most people have trouble being tolerant with each other. Big surprise – it isn’t necessarily the other person who maybe needs some work – maybe it’s you! As if to reinforce my observation, the article goes on to say that the practice of tolerance, however, is more about your relationship with yourself instead of with other people. Tolerance can be thought of as emotional or mental perseverance:
The article then outlines the 8 tips, all of which I think are useful. But the one that stuck with me was the one on keeping perspective, which said:
In my mind, using tolerance to pay grace forward is the key. Tolerance will only thrive when we employ positive and not negative efforts. Tolerance will only have a fighting chance if we stop using our iPhones and other means to get the latest “spin” on what is happening in our world. Those pings that tell us about “breaking” news do more to break our spirits than signal the delivery of objective information. Many people have told me that they stopped watching news and new/entertainment programs because they so tired of seeing a platform that should keep us informed on the facts used instead to issue embellished analysis, negativity and opinion. Lest you think I am running down a particular show, this is a criticism that can be leveled at each and every one.
It is easier to generate tolerance when we are all on a fact-based playing field. We can draw our own conclusions without being led into emotional tailspins. Then we can use the leftover energy to build physical tolerance that will help us withstand any conditions life may arbitrarily fling our way.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.