Stress and Disease are Best Friends Forever

My favorite technique for defining a word is to dissect the parts of the word.  Disease, simply stated is a state of not being at ease.  The prefix dis- means not, and we all recognize the feeling of being at ease.  Being at ease is the indescribable feeling of walking out of a difficult exam, watching a formerly troubled child graduate from college, or a woman hearing a judge proclaim that she is no longer bound to an abusive spouse.  The last example should represent the state of being at ease to the 10th power.  Prolonged stress from bad relationships is responsible for incalculable physical and emotional damage.  We have all heard that worrying is a useless expenditure of time, but many people still surrender to this crippling habit.

Before we delve into scientific facts, I do not want the philosophers in our midst to make any harsh inferences.   I am not accusing anyone of having cancer or any other illness because of any self-defeating act.  I do not know your personal situation and this article is not meant to be accusatory in any way.  I am simply sharing statistics that prove that perservative cognition, or worry, exacerbates existing conditions and creates others.

Perservative cognition, as displayed in worry and rumination, is a common response to stress.  Some medical models have largely ignored this fact, and have insufficiently addressed the affects that occur in anticipation of or following stressful events.  One can argue that worry moderates the health consequences of stressors because it can prolong stress-related physiological activation.  Worry is associated with enhanced cardiovascular, endocrinological, immunological, endocrine, and neuro-vicsceral systems.  Humans are not designed to function in fight or flight mode on a continuous basis.  The end result can become hypertension, alopecia aereata (hair loss in areas or patches) or alopecia totalis (universally or across entire body), insomnia, eating and digestive disorders, anxiety and panic attacks, circulation problems, colds and viruses.  The list wanders to infinity.  (Broscot, Gerin, and Thayer, 2004.)  The risk factors for disease increase if you add other unhealthy behaviors, such as excessive alcohol consumption, drug usage, a lack of exercise, and poor dietary habits.

Stress contributes to the disease process.  How can one properly manage stress?  Some levels of stress can be a way to keep us on target with our goals and aspirations.  Each individual should monitor work load and balance with leisure activity and rest.  Physical activity is a powerful way to combat stress.  Exercise can be achieved in a variety of ways.  Consult your physician before embarking on a new exercise regimen.  Gardening, walking, cycling, and swimming are excellent ways to keep the muscles moving.  The human body is not designed to be sedentary.  Being a couch potato is definitely out of style.

Some people enjoy keeping journals and a master time management documents, such as Outlook calendars or fancy mobile device applications.  The simple act of writing or typing a task can get that task off your mind so that you can sleep.  If you are not the type to document feelings or events in a journal, try a simple list.  Write all of your concerns on a list and place the list in a safe place.  Today, medical scientists are realizing the benefits of meditation and prayer.  Several studies are being performed to compare the health of people who have an active prayer life to those who choose not to pray.  I have seen bumper stickers that say, “If you worry, why pray?  If you pray, why worry?”  If you have several problems, list them in order of most severe, devise a plan, and start to solve the problems.  We have the capacity to solve all of our problems.  Just approach them one at a time.  Life coaches, psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists are helpful resources.  Consult your insurance administrator to check on coverages.  Some offices have sliding fee schedules if you have a limited income.  Do not be ashamed to get the proper assistance.  Build a hedge around yourself with a strong set of friends and family.  If you have creative ways of managing stress, we would be delighted to hear about them.  Stress and disease are best friends and this friendship is worth  dissolving.  Choose good physical and emotional health.  Stop worrying today.


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