Worrying isn’t just stressful. It’s also bad for your health.
Will you make your connecting flight? How will you make ends meet this month? Does your mother have cancer? It’s so easy to worry about every possible thing that might go wrong in life. You might even think if you worry enough, the bad thing you fear won’t happen. Worry, however, robs today of its joy and you of your strength. You worry because you want to be able to control the future, but you can’t. There’s nothing you can do about cancelled flights, a late bill payment, or a cancer diagnosis, so what’s the point in worrying?
Maybe you have the reputation of being a worrywart or maybe you keep all your anxiety pent up inside. Whether your worry is evident to others or not, it’s not doing you any good. In fact, worry is likely causing quite a bit of harm to your mental and physical health and well-being. Chronic worrying triggers your body’s stress response, which can cause a host of health problems. Here are a few of the most common.
Prolonged, elevated stress hormones contribute to high blood pressure and an increased heart rate that forces your heart to work harder. Left unchecked, your heart may become damaged, putting you at risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Weakened Immune System
Does it seem like when it rains it pours? When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to come down with a bad cold. Excessive worry weakens your immune system, making it’s harder to fight off viruses, infection, and disease. It’s not just cold and flu that you’re more likely to suffer. Chronic stress is connected to an increased risk for more serious diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.
When you’re uptight, don’t be surprised when your back, neck, shoulders, or head start to ache. Muscle tension is a common side effect of anxiety. Many people suffer from frequent tension headaches due to unmanaged stress.
It’s common for people who worry to suffer from frequent digestive issues. Nausea, diarrhea, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive disorders are associated with anxiety. Relax and watch your bowel issues resolve on their own.
Where do you turn for comfort when you’re stressed or worried? If you’re like many people, you turn to food. Emotional eating is a common cause of weight gain. Food provides a temporary distraction or comfort from the worries on your mind. Many unhealthy foods are high on the list of comfort foods so beware.
Mental and Mood Disorders
Elevated levels of stress hormones can lead to changes in your brain chemistry that increase your chances of dealing with depression or anxiety disorders. When you worry you’re more likely to be irritable, moody, have difficulty concentrating, and experience short-term memory loss.
Intense worry in the moment can make you feel dizzy or short of breath. Your mouth may feel dry and you may have trouble swallowing. Your heart may race and you may have chest pains, break out in a sweat, tremble, or feel numbness or tingling in your hands or feet. These are all common symptoms that may indicate a panic attack. Remain calm, take deep breaths, and wait for the feelings to pass.
Teeth and Gum Problems
When you’re nervous, you may grind your teeth during sleep or clench your teeth during the day. Even though it’s done unconsciously, this grinding and clenching can do lasting damage to your teeth. Gum disease has also been associated with stress.
So cut out the worry in your life. Your health will thank you.