Everyone has anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety can negatively impact your quality of life and have serious consequences on your physical health.
Some stress experts warn that chronic worrying may be the number-one killer in this country. Every time we allow ourselves to experience anxiety (the clinical term for worry), we change our physiology (changes in blood chemistry, blood sugar level, blood pressure, muscle tension). If persistent worrying or anxiety is a part of your lifestyle, these physiological changes are prolonged and undermine your health.
The short-term effects of chronic worrying include depression, mental and physical exhaustion, chronic fatigue, insomnia and general achiness. In the long term, the person whose lifestyle includes worrying predisposes him/herself to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Strategies to help
If you are concerned about the amount of worry and anxiety you may be feeling, below are three strategies to help:
— Control your worry. Select a half-hour “worry period” that will take place at the same time and place each day. Observe your worrying throughout your day. When you “catch” a worry beginning, postpone it to your worry period, reminding yourself that you will have time later to worry about it and there is no use upsetting yourself now. When you get to your worry period, spend 30 minutes thinking about your concerns and what you can do about them. Try not to dwell on what “might” happen. Focus more on what’s really happening. Distinguish between worries over which you have little or no control, and worries about problems that you can influence. If you can influence the problem, do some problem-solving and take action. If the worry is largely beyond your control, recognize that little or nothing can be done and that you are only making yourself feel bad by worrying.
— What causes you to feel anxious? Try to pinpoint what it is you are feeling anxious about. If you can recognize what’s really bothering you, what can you do to eliminate or minimize the situation in some way so that it isn’t so stressful? More important, how can you react differently so you won’t be so affected by this situation?
— Exercise and learn relaxation techniques. Not only can exercise and relaxation techniques ease tension and relax the body, they can give you a break from worry. For exercise, focus on aerobic exercise like brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling. Relaxation techniques may include muscle relaxation, yoga, biofeedback, meditation or deep breathing. Choose what works best for you.