My heart rate was so high one day that I remember frantically Googling “What is a safe resting heart rate?” and “Is a resting heart rate of 100 bpm normal?”
I had just come back from an anxious trip at the grocery store and no matter how still I was and no matter how much I tried to take deep breaths, my heart rate would just not come down.
It was over 100 bpm while I literally sat doing nothing and when I just got up to walk around it was much higher!
I felt slight relief as I scrolled other peoples stories on the online forum I ended up on, but of course, as with Googling anything health related, there were a few that had me pretty worried, especially when someone commented something like, “…maybe you should go to the hospital to be safe.”
I was already on the verge of calling 911 so this did not help at all and, of course, the more I focused on my heart rate, the worse I felt.
My heart wasn’t just racing, it was also doing little flips in my chest and would feel like it was coming out of my throat causing me to naturally want to cough.
I popped two magnesium glycinate (my savior supplement) and brewed a cup of Tulsi tea while I anxiously scrolled and tried hard not to follow my mind’s inevitable doom spiral.
It did come down eventually and by this time I realized two things.
Number one, I hated grocery shopping with anxiety, HATED IT.
Number two, so many other people dealt with anxiety-related heart symptoms too. This brought some comfort, however some people mentioned needing to take beta-blockers and this stressed me out.
I wasn’t on beta-blockers and I didn’t want to go on them if I didn’t have to, but now I worried that my heart could possibly shoot up super high and I’d have nothing to help me in the moment, except my breathing, which didn’t seem to be doing the trick at all.
Welcome to the world of GAD and 24/7 heart symptoms!
- Heart palpitations, racing heart rate, chest pain/pressure, shortness of breath, and dizziness are common physical symptoms of anxiety related to the body’s fight-or-flight response.
- These anxiety-induced heart and chest symptoms can make basic activities like walking difficult and trigger panic attacks.
- Hyperventilation, tense chest muscles, lying down, and stimulants like caffeine can trigger or worsen these symptoms.
- Relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, herbal teas, electrolytes, and magnesium supplements may provide relief in the moment.
- Long-term lifestyle changes like daily breathing rituals, exercise, nutrition, and reducing alcohol/caffeine are key for ongoing management.
- Though scary, these symptoms are temporary and not dangerous – staying mindful of this can prevent panic from worsening symptoms.
- Seeing a doctor to rule out other conditions and exploring therapy and medication options may also help find relief.
Common Heart-Related Symptoms Related to Anxiety
I was already hyper-focused on my constantly racing heart that was truly never lower than 80 bpm, but every time I had an experience like the one mentioned above, I’d become extra worried and start analyzing every single symptom and sensation that I thought may be linked to my heart.
These were the symptoms that made me go into panic mode more times than I can count:
- Fast heart rate/pounding heart
- Intense chest pressure, pain, or tightness
- Neck and jaw pain
- Tingling and pain in my left arm
- Shortness of breath
It’s absolutely terrible when panic takes over, because you genuinely do believe you are dying. It doesn’t matter what anyone says to you at the moment, you just think you have a sixth sense or something and that “This is it!” It doesn’t matter if you’ve thought this many times before, health anxiety makes every “This is it” feel like “THE ONE” – you know what I mean!
Before I go any further, if you are currently struggling with any of these symptoms then let me try to put your mind at ease…
Of course I am not a doctor and due to the nature of the content I share, I do always have to have a disclaimer and encourage you to see a doctor for any concerning symptoms you may be dealing with.
From an anxiety perspective though, and from my own personal experience, I can assure you that these symptoms are so incredibly common.
While there are a multitude of anxiety symptoms, some weirder than others that not everyone may experience, heart symptoms are some that every single person I have spoken to with anxiety experiences.
It’s totally natural to worry about your heart as a result. I’d go so far as to say, are you sure you even have anxiety if you haven’t worried about your heart at least once!
Yes, even walking feels challenging…
On my Instagram, I often get asked, “But can literally just taking a few steps feel hard when I deal with this symptom?”
I promise you that when I say everything felt hard for me when my heart raced all day, I mean it! I’d try to go on a walk for my anxiety, but a few steps down the street, my heart was already beating so hard and fast, and I’d be so dizzy that I’d actually often (more times than not) turn around and give up on the idea of going anywhere.
The times that I did manage to get further than a few steps, I’d often start panicking, as I was now further away from home than I’d like to be and my symptoms were so intense that I wouldn’t be sure how I was going to make it home.
Jelly legs and shortness of breath were just two more terrifying symptoms that always accompanied my racing/fluttering heart when I tried to go on a walk or go anywhere for that matter.
Just a simple trip to the grocery store was an ordeal, as I share with you in my ebook “Help! Why Am I So Anxious?”
I sometimes forget just how far I have come, because there once was a time where I had a panic attack every single time I stepped foot outside my front door.
My heart is with you if you are there now.
I know it feels completely hopeless, I really do. If I could find ways through it then you absolutely can and I am here to help.
Let’s delve a little deeper into heart and chest symptoms and why they happen…
Causes and Triggers of Anxiety-Related Heart Symptoms
When your brain believes you are in true danger, it will pump blood harder and faster around your body. This can increase your heart rate and also cause heart palpitations, which is when it feels like your heart is jumping, skipping and fluttering in your chest.
Heart palpitations are really uncomfortable and scary and can cause instant panic. It may feel like your heart is skipping a beat or beating too many times.
I should mention here that it is common to experience an increased heart rate, as well as palpitations during any kind of hormonal changes. I get them during ovulation, and I have them now as I am writing this article (can you believe it?) and it makes sense because my period is due in a few days.
It doesn’t matter that we know what may be contributing, they still suck.
The pain and heart palpitations are enough to deal with already, but when paired with this one, I can understand your urge to immediately want to run to the ER, I have been there!
Chest pressure, that feeling like someone is sitting on your chest, is often a result of very shallow breathing (hyperventilation) when you take in too much oxygen into your chest, not your belly.
When you are taking super shallow breaths it can also contribute to dizziness, tingling and tension headaches.
Tense or tight muscles
Tight chest muscles can cause some pretty intense pain. When your brain thinks you are in danger it tenses up your chest muscles to help protect your internal organs against the perceived threat.
If you are chronically stressed, however, dealing with tight muscles on a daily basis, then you may experience tightness and pain every day. You may even experience twitching muscles and twitching in your chest may feel really scary and bizarre. The pain can be significant, I would always immediately panic. The more we panic, the tighter our muscles get and the more intense the pain may feel.
Fight or flight mode
When you feel anxious or stressed out, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. This is your body’s natural reaction to danger.
In fight-or-flight mode, your body pumps out adrenaline. This makes your heart beat faster and harder. It’s your body’s way of getting ready to either fight the danger or run away really fast.
For people with anxiety, this reaction gets triggered too easily. Your brain thinks there’s danger when there really isn’t. So your heart starts pounding even though you’re just sitting at home worried about something.
Other reasons your heart may go nuts if you have anxiety include:
- Drinking too much coffee, energy drinks or alcohol
- Not getting enough sleep
- Eating a poor diet
- Taking certain medications
- Having other health conditions
Why do I get a fast heartbeat at night?
A racing heartbeat when trying to sleep is common with anxiety, since relaxing in bed can lead to ruminating thoughts at night which can then trigger fight-or-flight.
Simply lying down exacerbates symptoms for some!
With some tweaking to your nighttime routine, you can stop anxiety from disrupting your sleep and causing a racing heart.
You could try relaxing bedtime rituals, avoid stimulants at night, use calming exercises, and optimize your sleep environment by trying something like red light therapy for anxiety.
What about POTS?
I started seeing comments on Instagram about POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) whenever I would post about heart-related anxiety symptoms.
POTS is when your heart rate drastically increases from a resting to sitting/standing position. I have had this when I am sick or running on lack of sleep, severely anxious, during ovulation and on my period too.
So as you can see, there are many causes of this, but with health anxiety we will always jump to what we consider the worst case.
Other common anxiety symptoms that mimic POTS, including dizziness, brain fog, heart palpitations and blurry vision.
I honestly don’t know too much about POTS, but from my research, while it is considered serious, it isn’t life-threatening and can seem to be managed quite well with the right lifestyle habits, although this is simply what I have read, I do not have personal experience with it. If you have it and you struggle I am so sorry, this is not to invalidate anyone.
Always check with your doctor, and please know that Google isn’t the answer.
If you do have POTS, I am more than open to hearing your experience and tips in the comments as it may help someone else.
“I Need To Slow My Heart Down Now!” Tips for Managing Symptoms In the Moment
I have your back!
I’ll share some tips that can help to instantly slow your heart rate down.
Before we delve in here, I just wanted to say that the number one tip is to focus on your breathing. However, as I mentioned a little earlier on, deep breathing never seemed to help me, that is until I realized that there are different breathing techniques and some work better in times of panic.
Alternate nostril breathing is one of my favourite techniques ever and I’ll include a video from my favourite online yoga teacher showing how to do it below:
Another helpful technique is straw breathing, which I talk about in my ebook, “Held Hostage By Health Anxiety”
Straw breathing can be done with an actual straw, but you don’t need one to do this technique.
Straw breathing is one I find myself coming back to day after day, as it streamlines the air going in and out of your body, perfect for when you’re hyperventilating.
I also love it, because it drastically slows down your exhale, making your exhale a lot longer. This is wonderful for the nervous system and, if done right, you will genuinely feel the effects right away.
There are different ways to do it, but this is how I like to do it:
I start with taking a slow deep breath in through my nose. I then purse my lips as if I am breathing through a straw and exhale out nice and slow. You’ll see how much your exhale slows down and how soothing it feels!
As you can see, you could use a straw here to breathe through if you so wish.Held Hostage By Health Anxiety by Tamryn. J. Burgess, R.H.N.
You could also try this breathing necklace from a company I am partnered with.
Breathing like this helps to stimulate your vagus nerve, which in turn helps to slow your heart rate and ease palpitations. Other ways to stimulate this nerve include coughing, humming, singing and immersing your face/wrists in very cold water. I like freezing water bottles and taking them out with me.
More tips for immediate relief
- 🍋 Make a natural electrolyte drink with lemon, a dash of maple syrup and a pinch of pink salt or sip on coconut water
- 🍵 Sip on herbal tea such as Tulsi, lemon balm, chamomile, lavender or passionflower.
- 🌱 Take a few drops of CBD oil (works fast!)
Long-Term Relief: Creating An Action Plan for Ongoing Control
For long-term relief, I’d recommend adding a magnesium glycinate supplement to your daily ritual, as well as an adaptogen.
I list them all out in my “Anxiety A to Z” Encyclopedia!
I personally love Ashwagandha and take it every day. I take 300mg in the morning and 300mg at night.
Try to cut back on alcohol and caffeine, as both stimulate the nervous system and increase heart rate. Caffeine is known to cause heart palpitations in sensitive individuals (hi, it’s me) so cutting back or cutting it out (me again) may help you more than you know!
A daily deep breathing ritual and finding ways to gently move your body, as well as paying attention to your nutrition, mindfully filling your body with whole, nourishing foods, will all go a long way in helping to manage not only these symptoms, but so many more.
I go deep into nutrition in my first book. If you’d like all my books then click here for my complete bundle!
I wrote these books based on feedback from you. I had so many questions asking me about my story, all of my own personal experiences and everything that I learned and that helped me so I put it all into these books for you.
I know how terrifying it is to constantly obsess over the health of your heart. To analyze every single symptom that may possibly be connected and to go into panic as a result. To be constantly aware of your heartbeat when you are trying to relax or fall asleep. To even feel your heartbeat in other parts of your body.
Try to always keep in mind that anxiety symptoms are real and they are terrifying, but the worst they can do is make you feel awful, they can’t harm you.
I hope this article has brought some relief for you, no matter how small. I’d love to hear from you in the comments, let me know if you relate to this post.
I also have a podcast episode delving into my experience with heart/chest symptoms if you’d like to have a listen just click here.
What’s next for you?
I’d love it if you left me a comment to let me know how you liked this blog post, or, tell me if you have any other questions about the breathing necklaces?
And, to help you along your journey, I’d be honoured if you:
Transparency notice: this post does contain affiliate links which simply means if you do purchase any of the products through the links provided, I will get a small commission in return. This doesn’t cost you anything more, and it helps me to keep this blog ad-free. I will never share any products I have never personally used, and if I ever do, I will surely tell you. If you do make a purchase, thank you for your support.
Disclaimer: We have different bodies and present a unique set of anxiety symptoms that may occur in varying intensities and duration. You do not have to have all of the symptoms discussed on this website to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. You should also not use the symptoms discussed to self-diagnose. Please consult with your doctor who can differentiate between the symptoms being solely anxiety-related and other medical conditions.