Growing up, my mom joked that I was hypochondriac. She constantly had to put up with me asking “Does this mole look funny to you?” and dreaded the announcement of a new virus outbreak for fear that I would start dreaming up symptoms. The week leading up to the very few times she took me to a doctor was usually spent with her trying to sooth my eye-popping nausea and assure me that they don’t usually perform surgery for stuffy noses. (No matter what was wrong with me, I was always convinced a doctor was just dying to slice into my abdomen.) When I wasn’t worrying about my health, I was finding other things to stress about. During the fall and winter of 1999, Y2K and the apocalypse left me an absolute wreck. I didn’t care that Prince had waited 12 years for that year to roll around and I certainly didn’t plan to celebrate in a purple, velvet bodysuit.
Fortunately as I got older, I did start to see things a bit more rationally. I started to realize that Bruce Willis probably wouldn’t have to save the planet in my lifetime, just as Dustin Hoffman probably wouldn’t be knocking at my door in a yellow quarantine jumpsuit. Have I completely stopped worrying about tumors and moles? No. Have I stopped fearing a Chicken Little existence? No. I now just stress and worry about more realistic things.
Now here’s the kicker: the stress of worrying I’ll get sick could actually make me sick. Check out what can happen to your body on stress:
Hair- High levels of stress may cause excessive hair loss.
Muscles- Spasmodic pains in the neck and shoulders, muscular skeletal aches, lower back pain, and various minor muscular twitches and nervous tics are more noticeable under stress.
Digestive Tract- Stress can aggravate diseases of the digestive tract, including gastritis and stomach ulcers.
Skin- Eczema or psoriasis sufferers may experience outbreak when under high levels of stress.
Lungs- Those with asthmatic conditions may be affected by stress.
Heart- Cardiovascular disease and hypertension are linked to accumulated stress.
Brain- Stress triggers mental and emotional problems, such as insomnia, headaches, personality changes, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
So what can you (and I say you, because I couldn’t possibly have a problem with stress myself) do to prevent such ailments? Well, you can start by taking 5 minutes out of your day to clear your head. Just forget everything pertaining to your everyday life and enjoy the quiet time. If silence isn’t your thing, try getting outside for a short walk. Can’t even find enough time for that? Why not try simple deep, belly breathing for a while. Another great way to combat stress is to simply eliminate the possibility for it. No, don’t quit your job or drop out of school, but try getting your personal life as organized as possible to eliminate the tiny stresses that can really pile up.
Remember, when all else fails, blame your mother. After all, she’s the one who passed the mutant hypochondriac gene on to me anyway!
My Healthy Choice of the Day: Sticking to my “no candy” rule today….except for the one, tiny Jolly Rancher I had at lunch.