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anxiety and the body
Have you ever asked yourself, “What does worrying do to the body?” Do you consider yourself a chronic worry wart? Believe it or not, worrying can have physical effects on the body. If you are that worry wart, or genuinely have things to worry about, your excessive worrying becomes anxiety which can make you physically ill.
Dictionary.com defines worrying as a verb which means ‘to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret.’ When you think about problems or unpleasant things that make you feel anxious or uneasy, you trigger a physical reaction within the body. These physical reactions can affect your daily life to the point where your appetite, sleep, relationships, and job performance are directly hindered. As a coping mechanism, many people seek false relief from unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, over eating or abusing drugs.
When the stress or worrying is long term or excessive, one is thought to suffer from anxiety. Some are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder where panic attacks afflict daily lives. Stress can manifest in many forms and come from a wide variety of sources. It can be as simple as having to wait in a long line, to learning that you or a loved one has a chronic health concern. No matter the source, once your body becomes triggered, it body has a stress response. The first part of the response is your body’s perception of the threat or challenge. The next phase and most commonly known, is the ‘fight or flight’ response. Your body has to react to how severe the threat is to your safety. These reactions trigger the nervous system to release hormones. The most common hormone being cortisol. Cortisol affects your blood sugar levels and blood fat, and can cause reactions such as dizziness, dry mouth, rapid breathing and heartbeat, irritability, tense muscles, sweating, and you may begin to tremble or shake.
According to WebMD, ‘When the excessive fuel (blood sugar and blood fats) in the blood isn’t used for physical activities, the chronic anxiety and outpouring of stress hormones can have serious physical consequences, including:
- Suppression of the immune system
- Digestive disorders
- Muscle tension
- Short-term memory loss
- Premature coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
If excessive worrying and high anxiety go untreated, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.’
Learning how to cope with stress is essential in preventing these awful physical effects. Start by assessing how you react to stress. Is it severe and warrants a talk with your doctor? Sometimes other underlying issues can acerbate your stress reactions. Get an exam done to rule out any other contributing factors. Once that is done a doctor will know if medicine is needed until more natural stress remedies can be established. One of those natural stress reducing remedies is exercise. Exercise activates happy chemicals within the brain and a regular routine will help you establish a good reaction to stress. Along with the exercise routine, you will benefit from eating a healthy balanced diet.
Part of that healthy diet is reducing items that may trigger a negative stress response. Since caffeine is a stimulant, and can make your body excited or jittery, limiting the amount of caffeine you drink is important. You need to relax and be mindful of what your stresses are. Yu can set aside 10-15 a day to focus on what might be troubling you, then you let it go. Do not allow yourself to focus on that stress all day long. Learning a proper relaxing breathing technique is critical too. A deep breath that allows your chest to rise while inhaling and the belly to extend on exhale, will trigger the body to relax. Be conscious of how you feel, if the body is tense, and if it is, breathe!
The last, and I think a very important, part of managing your stress responses is to meditate. Meditation, daily meditation, can help you move your mind past those negative thoughts and focus on positive centering thoughts. Meditation makes the body mindful of its state, in the present moment. You must clear thoughts of past or future. Breathe.
All of these options will help the body have a healthier response to stress, reducing the physical effects it has on your health. Its very important that everyone learn and establish a good coping response to worrying. Do whatever you can to remind yourself to not dwell on worries.