Can Worry Affect Your Health?

Bill Abbate

What would it be like to live a life without worry? Can you imagine that? It would be like living in a near-perfect world!

Unfortunately, a worry-free world does not exist on this earth. Yet how much of our worry is unfounded?

Why we worry

Where does worry originate? Much of our worry comes from thinking about something negative occurring in the future. You could also say this worry is rooted in an expectation or fear of something bad happening. From where does this expectation or fear come? Perhaps it comes from doubt, past experiences, or an overall negative outlook on life. While these seem to be the most common sources, what others have you noticed?

“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.” Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983)

What do you worry about most? Is it money, your job, marriage, kids, family, friends, the weather, a nuclear war, or a giant asteroid coming out of nowhere and hitting the earth? Egads! Could the world really come to a sudden, cataclysmic end? If it does, will it matter? If you are doomed regardless of what you do, why waste another second worrying about it?

By the way, I worked egads into that last paragraph on purpose. Remove the “e” and you have GAD, the acronym for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. If you have GAD, you obviously worry a lot! Yet studies on those diagnosed with GAD show “The most common percentage of untrue worries per person was 100%”! While their worry is real, what they worry about is not.

For those of us who worry regularly, it has been widely reported that between 85 to 99% of worries never happen, and when they do, the impact is usually far less than expected!

Yet, with numerous studies showing we have virtually nothing to worry about, our concerns continue, do they not?

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Worry and your health

Numerous studies show the anxiety worry creates can have serious health consequences. Please note if you have or suspect you have GAD be sure to seek medical help! You could be doing untold damage to your physical health.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983)

Worry can have terrible consequences on your physical health. The anxiety caused by worrying releases stress hormones. The hormones can affect your breathing rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, immune system, stomach, intestines and create a great deal of muscle tension. Most importantly, these hormones cause inflammation in your body and blood vessels. This can damage your heart, leading to heart attacks and death.

Wherever you have inflammation in your body, take it seriously. Prolonged inflammation can harden artery walls, produce unhealthy cholesterol levels, plaque, and create many other issues. I can attest to the need to keep inflammation at bay. Because of the damage it caused in my arteries I experienced four consecutive widow maker heart attacks within a few hours. I am one of the fortunate few to live and now do all I can to keep as much worry out of my life as possible.

Despite being a serious athlete who ate the right food, with a 44 bpm resting heart rate, normal blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and all the rest, inflammation nearly cost me my life. A compounding issue I later discovered was sleep apnea. Sleep apnea exacerbated the inflammation in my body and arteries, ultimately leading to my heart events.

While I appeared extremely healthy on the outside and could swim, bike, and run for hours on end, my internal health was suffering. The last thing I needed in my life was the least bit of added inflammation in my arteries from worrying!

Worrying less in life

I wish there were a magic wand I could wave and make most of the worry in the world go away, but alas, no such thing exists. It is up to each of us to work on this area of our lives as no one else can do it for us.

You can try all the mindfulness exercises, yoga, meditation, and other techniques that exist, and they may help or may not. Until you make your mind up to make it a priority in your life, to permanently change your mindset, everything else is just a band-aid. As we all understand well, a band-aid is not a permanent solution, but only short-term, temporary protection.

For some, worry can be an addiction. Some people, such as my mother, before she died, spend their entire lives worrying. Of course, none of their worries ever happen. But then it gives them something to do with their life, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, many of us must suffer from their complaining and constant negativity.

“Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.” Glenn Turner (1947-present)

My mother died recently, and nothing I could do helped her worry less. It was just who she was. One lesson for me is I do not want to live a miserable life worrying. I want to live a happier life. The great thing is it is my choice, and my choice for life is positivity, happiness, and joy!

Until you make your mind up to accept the truth that most of what you worry about is not worth the time, energy, and adverse effects on your health, you will not stop. You must decide in the deepest part of your heart that you will cease worrying.

Sometimes we need a hard word such as the following to wake us up.

“Worry is evidence of an ill-controlled brain; it is merely a stupid waste of time in unpleasantness.” Arnold Bennett (1867-1931)

Many things will happen regardless of how much thought you give them when you have lived a long life. The only tiny bit of anxiety I find beneficial is when I need to stay sharp. For example, whenever I speak to a large group of people, I want a little anxiousness to help me prepare well and be sharp in front of the group. I do not let worry enter in, however. Being prepared to do my best is what matters most, so why worry?

It is one thing to exert control over whatever may happen, but it is completely different when it is something beyond your influence. For these things beyond our control, the decades teach you not to worry so much. Much of what will happen will happen regardless. There is a point at which we accept what happens and do our best moving forward.

Final thoughts

Let’s face it; sometimes, we need the brutal reality of the truth. Worry is almost always a complete waste of our time, our health, and our life!

All of the self-help tips and tricks in the world will not permanently reduce worry in you until you first choose to stop worrying and start living a fuller, happier, healthier life! Other than yourself, what is stopping you from making such a decision? It’s your life, your health, your time to use. Use it well!

Choose not to allow worry to control you any longer. Fight it tooth and nail! Fight it with everything in you! Refuse to be its slave and refuse to let it be your master!

“What worries you, masters you.” John Locke (1632-1704)

You are strong enough! Resolve to win this fight and take back what is rightfully yours – your life!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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