Worry can spark action if you worry and realize a plan of action
needs to be initiated-- and you act. Under those circumstance worry
is serving you well.
Worry can spark your imagination. Sometimes having a cerebral cortex
is not much fun. Imagination can litter our internal environment
with every manner of fearful possibility. Many fearful possibilities
do not exist outside of our fertile imaginations. Nonetheless, they
trigger the same damaging chemical and physical changes as a genuine
Physical and Chemical Changes. Your body starts pumping out an array
of chemicals (such as adrenaline) that increase the flow of blood
and oxygen to your brain and skeletal muscles. Your blood also clots
faster, ready to repair any injuries you sustain in your "fight
or flight" reaction.
Consequences of Worry and Stress
You may be all keyed up with nothing to fight or flee and no way
to turn off the stress chemicals. You become a ticking bomb that
is not allowed to explode-so you may implode. If this happens frequently,
it can have a serious, even deadly, effect on your health.
Every system in your body is affected by worry. In addition to raising
blood pressure and increasing blood clotting, worry can prompt your
liver to produce more cholesterol, all of which can raise your risk
of heart attack and stroke. Muscle tension can give rise to headaches,
back pain, and other body aches. Worry can also trigger an increase
in stomach acid and either slow or speed up muscle contractions
in your intestines, which can lead to stomach aches, constipation,
diarrhea, gas or heartburn. Worry can affect your skin (rash or
itch). It can impact your respiratory system by aggravating asthma.
Growing evidence even suggests that chronic worry can compromise
your immune system, making you more vulnerable to bacteria, viruses,
perhaps even cancer.
What should you do? Talk to someone. Talking to someone about your
fears or concerns can shine the light of reason on the products
of your imagination. Take action! When nature gave us an imagination
to identify potential threats, it also gave us fear to spur us to
take protective action. Make a plan and follow it through. Learn
to let go. Sometimes knowing the difference between a situation
over which you have control and one over which you have no control
can help. If there is nothing you can do -acceptance-may be the
Switch gears. Think of something over which you have control or
a least something more pleasant. Do something you enjoy, perhaps
with a friend. You can also test reality with a friend.
Work those muscles. Exercise is a fantastic way to relieve stress,
burn calories, decrease depression and work toward wellness.
Stop the worry before if has the opportunity to take control of
your emotions and thoughts. You must work quickly and strike when
you first become aware of the negative thoughts that fuel worry.
Do something: exercise, splash cold water on your face, snap a rubber
band, call a friend, or see a big flashing stop sign in your mind's
eye. You may want to listen to a relaxation CD or go on a mini vacation
in your mind. Whatever you choose should channel your thoughts in
another more positive direction.
Practice, Practice, Practice. It will soon become second nature
to relax, exercise, or change thoughts, rather than doing the old
Caution: You may want to avoid
eating or drinking alcoholic beverages to medicate the discomfort
of anxiety. They can be very dangerous ways to cope and as one could
predict-- they do not work. The original problems are still there--they
simply have company.
Dr. Dorothy McCoy (2002)
Psychotherapist and author of self-help books, workbooks, CDs and
e-courses on anxiety and other health issues. firstname.lastname@example.org