Worrying Our Way To Illness: How Anxiety Hurts Our HealthThe Breast Cancer Site
Worrying does more than just steal your time and attention; it can also have a serious impact on your health. Chronic worry, stress and anxiety flood your body with stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which cause a host of health problems ranging from insomnia to an increased risk of heart attack.
Short Term Discomfort
Headaches, fatigue, dizziness and irritability are just a few of the short term problems caused by your body’s release of stress hormones. You may also have trouble concentrating, a dry mouth, nausea and a rapid heartbeat, according to WebMD.
Long term worry, anxiety and stress flood your body with cortisol, which suppresses your system, according to Today’s Dietitian. This leaves you vulnerable to everything from catching a cold or virus to developing food allergies or gastrointestinal problems.
A healthy immune system supports healthy intestines. Elevated cortisol levels wreak havoc on digestion and nutrient absorption. It also can create irritation and inflammation of the mucosal lining in your gastrointestinal tract.
Over time, worry and anxiety can start packing on the pounds. Cortisol increases your body’s fat storage, stimulates your appetite and elevates your blood sugar levels, while suppressing insulin secretion. This starves your cells of glucose, increasing your body’s hunger signals.
Weight gain itself can stress your cardiovascular system, but elevated cortisol levels also cause increased blood pressure. Over time, this can leave your vessels damaged and riddled heart attack-causing plaque accumulation.
Trouble in the Bedroom
The Daily Mail points out that over time, worrying has a profound impact on the brain. In addition to making it more difficult to concentrate, you may also experience a lower sex drive and difficulties falling asleep. In addition to focusing your mind on whatever is causing you to worry, the increased levels of cortisol can trigger insomnia.
Talk to Your Doctor
If constant worry is affecting your life and health, the best way to start tackling the problem is by talking to your primary care physician. Get a physical to rule out any potential health conditions that can trigger anxiety. In extreme cases, you may want to talk to your doctor about anti-anxiety medications that may help.
Make a List
Web MD recommends making a list of everything that you’re worried about and analyzing it to distinguish productive worries that you have control over, from unproductive worries that are out of your hands.
Helpguide recommends a similar practice, with the addition of creating a worry period. During the day, write down any worries or anxious thoughts and postpone thinking about them until it’s your designated worry time. Over time, this may help train you to focus on the present moment instead of nagging worries, giving you more control.
Increase Your Activity Level
Regular exercise can help boost your immune system and counteract some of the damaging effects that worry has on the body. WebMD points out that regular exercise helps train your body to deal with stress. Eating a healthy and balanced diet is also helpful.