LPNI Health Topic – August 2017
We all worry. Worry is feeling uneasy and concerned about a situation or problem. A little worry is normal and even helpful in some situations. It can spur us on to study harder for a test, prepare better for an upcoming interview or be more cautious in potentially dangerous situations. These are just a few examples.
There are numerous physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual effects of anxiety, distress and stress brought on when worry becomes unrealistic, excessive and chronic. Chronic worrying can affect daily life; interfering with appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, job performance, and more. It can lead to harmful habits such as overeating, or excessive use of alcohol and drugs; also to generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorder, social anxiety, irrational and impaired thinking, depression and many other illnesses.
Let’s look at what happens in our bodies as a response triggered by worry, anxiety and stress. The response is complicated and ultimately involves the “whole person” in a mind-body cycle. Three systems directly involved in the physiology of stress are the nervous, endocrine and immune systems working together and in sequence in response to worry and stress. Messages sent from the hypothalamus, through release of corticotrophin, activates the pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates adrenal glands to release cortisol and aldosterone. This flood of hormones into the bloodstream, when stress is prolonged, has an effect on every system. This includes increasing metabolism; affecting body fluids, blood sugar levels, blood pressure; causing suppression of immune system, digestive system issues, muscle tension, twitching, memory loss, headaches, irritability, pain; also pulmonary and cardiac changes leading to coronary artery disease, heart attack and numerous other imbalances. The extent of damage is greatly influenced by each individual’s coping style.
There is hope for better health! Awareness of worries and its consequences and a network of support through family and friends are both important. Professional care for depression and chronic anxiety, medications or counseling may be necessary. Healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, exercise and relaxation are crucial. The simple words of the song title, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” give great advice. Focusing on the positive, on gratitude and joy, is healing, as Proverbs 17:22 says, A cheerful heart is good medicine. As Christians, through God’s word, we have abundant resources for hope, strength and true joy. From Nehemiah 8:10, The Joy of the Lord is our strength. We are told to give our worries to our loving, caring Lord in 1 Peter 5:7 Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Through His promises we are assured of His love, care, forgiveness; His peace in our lives. We pray and are confident of His continual presence to calm us. Jesus says in John 14:2, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Thanks be to God for our Hope in Him!
Texas District Health Ministry/Parish Nursing