Can we make ourselves sick?

I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions about the mind and body connection. My previous blog was about the connection between the brain and gut. This is the question I am asking today! What is the connection between chronic stress and anxiety and physical health that can put someone at risk for making themselves sick?

What is stress? It is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat.

What is anxiety? It is an emotion that causes increased alertness, fear and worry.

Stress and anxiety are a normal part of your body’s fight or flight response to potential threats. The amount of adrenaline and cortisol increase when we get stressed out.

Adrenaline causes blood vessels to contract and direct more blood to your heart and lungs as a reaction toward the body’s fight or flight response to stress.  Cortisol is an important steroid hormone that regulates metabolism, the immune response and it also helps your body respond to stress.

What happens overtime when you have chronic stress?

Chronic stress and anxiety increases adrenaline and cortisol resulting in high blood pressure and causes inflammation. Access cortisol and inflammation prevents the release of chemicals that strengthen the immune system. It can also increase your blood sugar and slows down your digestive function.

Other problems include having brain fog, breaking out in acne, weight gain and you are more likely to get sick. I asked a question on a facebook forum. Is it possible to be so anxious that you can make yourself sick? There were many people who responded.

“Yes I threw up for two solid days and could not even take a sip of water. I thought I was coming down with meningitis. Ended up in the hospital for three days with severe dehydration.”

“Yes I use to throw up when I had to go to work everyday. My days off I was just fine.”

“I’ve never vomited from panic, but I’ve seen people get sick from anxiety. I did however use to get really bad heartburn and spit up acid.”

How we have the power to make ourselves better or sick?

The mind is such a powerful thing. However it has a bias toward the negative rather than the positive. Sometimes stress can get the best of us and put us into a toxic mindset when we hold onto negative emotions.

I once went through a period in my life where I was under severe stress. I had lost my job, I was going through financial hardship and I was losing my apartment at the time. My stress was causing symptoms such as debilitating anxiety and depression, weight gain, high blood pressure, frequently getting sick and sleep problems.

In 2015 I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder along with severe sleep apnea. At the time I was struggling with high blood pressure (140/90), increased stress and anxiety and I had the potential to develop some serious cardiovascular problems and I was forty pounds overweight. I was prescribed a CPAP machine.

I did eventually have improved health when I started using the CPAP machine. My energy level improved since I was getting good sleep. I started losing weight and my blood pressure was under control.

I still had chronic stress. In order to deal with the negative feelings from my past I was holding on to I decided to explore techniques that helped me change my mindset. I did take medication and went to talk therapy however there were other things I did including meditation, journaling and exercise.

What are the benefits of meditation? Meditation is used to relieve stress and anxiety. The human mind has a negativity bias that affects overall well being and clouds your mind so you feel stressed and anxious. Negative thinking can be caused by your mind focusing too much on either the past or the future. Meditation is a practice that focuses the mind on the present moment so that it creates an increased sense of well being through improved focus, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, pain control and overall connectedness and empathy.

What are the benefits of journaling? Journaling has so many benefits. Whenever I am feeling stressed about something I express myself by writing my thoughts down. Sometimes I have nothing to say and when I go to bed I start writing until I fall asleep. Overall its a great way to get out of your head.

What are the benefits of exercise? Exercise in general is a great stress reliever. Being outdoors whether hiking or snowshoeing have the same positive affect on your mind as meditation. Scientists even say our brains change for the better when we spend time in nature.

The doctor noticed that I had a medical history of high blood pressure, sleep apnea and hypothyroidism along with chronic stress and anxiety. A blood test was ordered to not only test for cholesterol, hypothyroidism but to determine the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Since I worked so hard to improve myself through the positive changes I made in my life the test results came back the following day and they were normal. Training myself to feel more positive led to improved health.

If you want to know more about the mind/body connection please click on the link to my previous blog Leave comments below.

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