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Planning Retirement Online

Nothing to worry about


October 2011 

WorryingAre you a worrier? Worrying about various aspects in life is normal, it stops us putting ourselves at risk and helps us to determine a solution to various problems.

But some people worry far too much, to the point that it dominates their lives and their activities. Even worse, excessive worrying can affect you physically and trigger a range of health problems.

Severe worrying or anxiety triggers our “fight or flight” response, a basic human reaction to dangerous or very worrying situations. This is an age old reaction that is believed to have been present in ancient humans as they fought big animals and other tribes for food and survival, and the physical changes have remained.

When we are under severe worry, our body adapts to the stress situation through two key hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones provide a number of benefits such as boosting sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel and so of course can be invaluable in times of real crisis. These hormones can also cause additional physical reactions such as difficulty swallowing, a dry mouth, fast heartbeat, irritability, sweating and nervous energy.

However, this excessive fuel in the blood, especially when it isn’t used up by additional physical activities, can contribute towards a range of other physical consequences such as digestive problems, short-term memory loss and even, in severe cases, heart attack.

If you feel you over worry and are over anxious about things in life, then there are various steps that can be taken that can help.

The first is to talk to your doctor or a professional therapist who will assess how severe the problem is and can give advice on therapies and treatments. Psychological intervention and other methods can sometimes be used very successfully to introduce ways to cope with worry.

Learning to relax is a skill and some people have worked so hard for so long that they have forgotten how to relax properly. Here your doctor or therapist can advise as there are a number of programmes that can be undertaken to teach relaxation techniques. The techniques, which can include activities such as yoga and tai chi, meditation and deep abdominal breathing, can help to increase the blood flow to the brain and brain waves shift from an alert, beta rhythm to a relaxed, alpha rhythm. Daily meditation can help people move beyond negative thoughts and separate from the state of worry that keeps the body on high alert. With meditation, the focus is on the immediate, not the past or the future, and this can help decrease hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

A social network is important, people who can discuss worries with family or friends can help to reduce their levels of anxiety.

Exercise is now well documented to help counter stress and anxiety. Moderate exercise encourages the body to produce a range of chemicals that can be very beneficial in a number of areas. Regular aerobic and strengthening exercise is also said to be beneficial to help counteract over worrying and anxiety.

Diet of course is important, worrying can cause people to eat too little or too much. Ensuring you keep to a sensible healthy diet, including limiting the level of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol, can be helpful.

Sleep is a major problem with over-worriers, and of course again there is medication to help you get back into a regular sleep pattern. Therapies such as acupuncture and aromatherapy can help people suffering from over anxiety.

Most people have periods in their lives that cause severe worry. But if you are beginning to worry about how much you worry and can’t seem to shake off your levels of anxiety, then it is definitely time to seek professional advice. In some instances, your doctor may feel medication could be a real help and there are a number of anti-anxiety drugs that are available to help manage excessive worry.

There are also some useful organisations that can help.

For instance you can obtain a list of psychotherapists and other useful information from the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies on www.babcp.com (0161 705 4304).

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy gives details of practitioners in various areas www.bacp.co.uk (01455 88 33 00).


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