“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
Are you worried about your health?
Does the thought of starting another diet or beginning a new exercise program give you anxiety?
Stress can be a good thing when it motivates you to pursue a positive life change. But non-productive stress can produce negative side affects. I know my own health (or lack of health) has produced some anxiety in the past. Some of us even get anxious about being anxious. Everyone usually experiences some fear or nervousness when encountering any common variety of situations in life, then anticipating the possible outcome. The anxiety is primarily caused by external factors in our lives (e.g.: complications at work or school, strain in a relationship with your kids or even your spouse). However, these stressors can also originate internally. If you have poor health, if you’re overweight, or unsatisfied with your body image, then there is an excellent chance you produce intense stressful feelings of worry or anxiety. And these feelings are negatively affecting your health.
Anxiety Produces Poor Health
Anxiety and failure to adequately handle stress is what led to my diagnoses of a chronic illness in 2009. I thought I was healthy. I looked healthy. Then kablam! Chronic illness. Just like that.
Think about it. Your body responds to the way you think, feel, and act. You may have noticed that you are more vulnerable to illness when experiencing unusually high levels of stress and anxiety in your life. We’ve all been there. The pressure building as your wedding day approaches, a job interview on the horizon or that big performance you have been preparing for months. The anxiety builds, your stomach flutters, hands sweat, your face turns red and you may even become nauseous. So it should come as no surprise that a significant degree of stress will potentially yield high levels of anxiety; consequently producing poor physical health.
Studies in the field of neuroscience suggest that with every thought, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel either good or bad. High blood pressure or a stomach ulcer might develop after a stressful event. Chronic stress weakens your body’s immune system. Stress also has been implicated in heart disease, hypertension and even cancer. Chronic stress can drain your emotional well-being and has been linked with depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sorry for the bad news. Anyone on the verge of an anxiety attack? If not, just keep reading…
Stress and anxiety are intimately related to your diet.
Stress, whether physiological or psychological, can disrupt weight control by releasing “stress hormones,” such as adrenaline, to prepare the body to cope with the stress. According to Brenda Davy, assistant professor of human nutrition at Virginia Tech University, “Stress hormones may increase the storage of body fat in the abdominal area.” The hormones interfere with the response of another hormone, glucagon, which acts as a control mechanism when the body produces too much insulin.
Chronic stress and anxiety can deplete your levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood). These low levels of serotonin not only cause depression, but also may trigger cravings for sweets and other foods.
Believe it or not, the time of year may also affect your appetite. Many people get depressed in the late fall and winter months, when there is less sunlight, and have a tendency to eat more. This condition is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The disorder is definitely sad.
Stress also depletes the body’s fuel reserves and creates hunger. A lack of sleep compounds this syndrome. When you’re stressed and don’t get enough sleep, your levels of cortisol are increased. Studies have demonstrated that depriving humans of sleep increased both their appetite and food consumption.
How To Stop Worrying
1. Get your priorities straight. Our culture is hyper-saturated with people going crazy about their food. People used to panic about whether they would eat anything, but now we get all worked up about the quality of life that the cow lived before we ate it. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be concerned about the quality of our food. I care quite a bit. But all of your worry and anxiety expended on your desire to eat the perfect diet will only ultimately lead you down the path of poor health. Trust me, it’s not worth it.
2. Realize that worry doesn’t help. When you look back on difficult seasons and moments in your life, have you ever thought to yourself, “I don’t think I would have survived that experience if I wasn’t so anxious?” Probably not.
3. Eat well. Start with this simple guide to eating well.
4. Exercise well. Moderate exercise can improve mood in people who are depressed.
5. Sleep well. It’s not always the amount of sleep, but the quality that counts. See this sleep chart.
6. Look to Jesus. He sees. He knows. He cares. He is sympathetic. And he will never leave you nor forsake you.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.