“Anxiety Disorders affect 18.1% of adults in the United States. That is approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54.” – National Institute of Mental Health.
Anxiety on the rise
Wow! And the studies show that current estimates could be approximately 30% higher because many people don’t seek help, are misdiagnosed, or don’t know they have issues with anxiety.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Chronic worrying and anxiety are on the rise and most of us who aren’t experiencing it chronically are experiencing it acutely.
Continued stress can result in insurmountable health issues inside to out.
Maybe it’s time to worry about what happens when you worry too much because the dangers to your health could be more worrisome than what you are spending time worrying about.
“If you don’t relax, you’re going to worry yourself to death.” – Dr. Robert Adler.
Worrying is stress. When we feel threatened to any degree (aka: ‘stressed’), our bodies respond by going into a ‘fight or flight’ response.
Now, in the days where humans had to run from lions, tigers, bears and other threats the changes associated with the ‘fight or flight’ response were very helpful to get them out of danger quickly.
But whether we are being chased by a lion or dealing with a stressful day of work, our body doesn’t know the difference and we wreak the same havoc on our bodies being stressed about work that we would if we were to be chased by a lion. Imagine that!
Stress and survival
When we are stressed, the systems in our body go through changes. The systems responsible for survival get turned up (such as blood pressure, adrenaline and heart rate) in order to get blood flowing more rapidly, and the other systems that don’t play as big of a role in survival begin to turn down (digestion, immune system, fertility).
If this happens once in a while, the damage done is very minimal and the body can return to normal in a short time period.
However, if you are like most of the world and are feeling stressed for weeks and months at a time, you might be looking at some serious underlying health issues.
Being in a constant state of worry and stress can cause a huge hidden cost to your health including:
1. Increased risk of heart disease from chronic elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
2. Weakened immune system, which can lead to trouble preventing and healing from disease or sickness
3. Digestive issues and ulcers due to less protective fluids in the digestive tract as a side-effect of stress
4. Increased risk of diabetes from changes in blood caused by stress
5. Greater likelihood of depression
6. Impaired formation of new fast-growing cells like bone and hair
7. Loss of ability to recall memories and to form some new memories
8. Depressed fertility
Even worries or stresses that may not be earth-shattering can still set off the ‘fight or flight’ response.
There are still dangers associated with low-grade stress and we need to be aware of how we are reacting to the stimuli in our lives.
Danger is real and we have these fight-or-flight responses for this reason. When we are faced with real danger in the present time, we rely on this bodily reaction to keep us out of harm’s way.
It makes us take action and can save our lives if we are put into a situation that poses real harm.
But think about this… the daily stresses and worries we tend to deal with on a daily basis in our Western culture aren’t ‘dangers,’ they are ‘fears.’ Most of what we worry about is correlated to the future and our perceived lack of control of the future. We don’t exist in present time.
Danger is real. But fear is an illusion.
Instead of focusing on being present right ‘now’, our imaginations carry us into the future and we are anxious about things that do not presently exist and/or may not ever exist. We are constantly stressed over our own imaginations.
Strange paradox, is it not? Change your perceptions, change your reality, and watch your life change before your eyes.
So, what can do you do today to start changing this habitual ritual? Let’s talk solutions.
1. Learn to live in the present
It sounds clichéd, but clichés aren’t around for no good reason. Practice meditation and mindfulness daily to help with shifting in and out of negative states faster.
There is vast research on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness activities and positive changes in our brain and body chemistry can be seen in as little as eight weeks! Pencil it in your daily schedule and start today!
When you are under a lot of stress, stop and take a ‘time out.’ Ask yourself if this is true ‘danger’, or if you are imagining ‘fear’. Every time the answer is ‘fear’, take some long, deep breaths and focus on the one thing you can control: effort.
You may not be able to predict the future, but you can remain in the present and do something right now to improve your odds of a successful outcome in the future.
3. Practice gratitude
Most of us live extremely blessed lives. We get to sleep in a bed, have access to fresh food and water, have a roof over our head, and have an abundance of love around us.
Others aren’t so fortunate.
So, when we are ‘overwhelmed’, what we are actually worrying about is an over-abundance of things we should be giving gratitude to.
There are people dying to have the lives we do and who would love to be overwhelmed with our ‘stresses’ and ‘problems’. Stop and be grateful for all the many things on your plate. It’s impossible to be stressed and grateful at the same time. Try it!
“The way we choose to see the world creates the world we see.”
Connect here with Expert Emma Pietrzak