“Don’t worry, be happy”, by Bobby McFerrin, was a popular song released in 1988 (yes, THAT long ago!). Everyone whistled along to this catchy tune and it soon became a popular catch-phrase. Similarly, “Hakuna Matata” released with the Lion King in 1994, filtered into every-day conversations – it means “no worries…for the rest of your days…it’s our problem free philosophy…hakuna matata!”
Does less worry make you happy? Does having no problems equal no worries?
Trying to simplify complexed issues, avoids having to think about the many factors contributing to the problem. Understanding something, is the start to its solution. Worry (anxiety) is definitely complexed. It is very prevalent and at times, very challenging. Is worry really that bad for you?
Anecdotally, most would reply in the affirmative. Personally, too much anxiety has resulted in me having bouts of gastritis – severe epigastric burning pain, that is only relieved for me by taking PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors e.g. omeprazole).
My belief is that emotions are both positive and negative, depending on their placement along the curve of normal distribution. Having anxiety, can be very helpful as it would motivate you to work harder, be more diligent, organised, prepared and meticulous. Anxiety can be life-saving! Nothing like a bout of anxiety to get you running from an angry dog and preventing a nasty bite out of your butt!
Extreme and chronic anxiety or anger can impact negatively on health. Our minds and bodies are linked. Evidence supports the notion that anxiety reduces our immunity via the toxic effects of cortisol (stress hormone) on the immune system. Hence when stressed, we are more prone to illness. Latent viruses, such as Herpes virus, emerge when anxiety is high due to having a supressed immune system. Cancers tend to metastasise more readily when people are highly anxious. If any illness is already present, stress and anxiety usually aggravate its course.
Chronic anxiety has been linked to a higher likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, headaches and peptic ulcer disease. People with chronic illnesses are also more likely to become depressed. The combination of depression and illness has a far worse trajectory than the illness alone. Depression delays recovery from illnesses and surgeries.
Chronic anger and anxiety raise blood pressure which can result in micro tears within cardiac vessels and increased plaque formation. The latter increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Good emotional well-being seems to minimise the impact of the aging process. Therefore, the saying “stress ages you” is probably true!
The cost of illness is high. Good health supports longevity. People who are happier are generally more productive, as depression results in poor motivation. Depression also results in a greater likelihood of having an unhealthy lifestyle: poor eating, less sleep, fatigue, smoking, drinking more and less activity.
Managing anxiety and stress in modern times is not easy, but essential for the health and financial benefits.
Strategies to manage stress include:
1. Having good, healthy relationships.
2. Soothing techniques – yoga, meditation, breathing
3. Outdoor activities – get blood flowing, get in touch with nature, reduce the use of technology (it keeps the mind active and causes surges of anxiety and stress) I see a lot of Vitamin D deficiency and therefore a little sun is good for you.
4. Eat well and balanced, limit alcohol and substances
5. Vitamin B12, fish oils, calcium, magnesium.
6. Treat any illnesses and manage your health well by regular monitoring.
7. Seek professional help where needed.
And, don’t worry, be happy!!