Have you ever heard the phrase, "I'm worried sick!"
Did you know that you can actually worry yourself into being sick?
When we worry, it causes our body to think we're under stress and subsequently, hormones and chemicals are released. Included in these is the hormone cortisol. You have probably heard a lot of negative things about cortisol, but it's actually a helpful hormone when released at the right time. It's necessary for survival and extremely beneficial when you are exercising, for example. When your body doesn't need excess cortisol and your brain tells your adrenal glands to release it... this is when cortisol becomes damaging. It suppresses your immune system and can actually cause you to become sick, or easily susceptible to illness.
I was a constant worrier as a child. I lay awake at night for hours worrying about everything in life. Whether or not someone liked me, how I was going to do on my test the next day, if the world was ending. I worried about EVERYTHING! As a result, I was a sick kid. I had chronic ear infections, chronic sinus infections, and had 5 sinus surgeries before age 20.
As an adult, I was still a worrier. I rationalized this by saying to myself, "I'm just preparing for the worst. If I worry about the future and what could possibly go wrong, I won't be disappointed or surprised by anything." This ultimately did not help me prepare for the worst but instead made me a fearful and sickly person. I struggled with chronic illnesses throughout my adult life.
"Worry is like a rocking chair. You can rock all day but you won't get anywhere."
I might be sitting in a pretty rocking chair, but I'm not getting anywhere and in fact, it's detrimental to my health.
I finally decided to stop being a worrier.
How did I do this?
Gratitude. It's hard to worry about the future when you're focused on the present. I started a gratitude practice that includes listing off the things I'm grateful for every morning and every night.
I re-evaluated my friendships. I don't surround myself with negative complaining people that also suffer from chronic worry. Another symptom of this is victim-mindset. If you are around people with victim-mindset that constantly think the world is out to get them, they are likely not a positive influence in your life.
Lastly, I capped how much time I spend worrying about the future. It is normal to worry when something happens, such as when your 2 year-old child disappears on the playground. There are valid things to worry about in life, but how much energy are you giving to the worry? I allow myself to worry, validate my emotions, and then surrender it to God.
And then I get out of my rocking chair and go for a walk.