An article by Deborah Kotz in the November 4, 2013, issue of The Boston Globe expresses what those of us in the wellness field have known for a long time – stress makes you sick. Some stress is good of course, and spurs us to action, but stress unchecked for lengthy periods leads to anxiety, depression and a host of physical and physiological ailments that are very real.
Just two years ago (November 6, 2011), USA Today reported that “More than 20 percent of American adults took at least one drug for conditions like anxiety and depression in 2010, according to an analysis of prescription data, including more than one in four women.”
American are stressed out, drugged up and spending far more time at the doctor’s office with real issues that need to be resolved. As the Globe article states, many of these folks are low income and dealing with financial stress, gang-related issues or grief from losing a loved one. It isn’t that their lives are wonderful and they simply don’t know how to relax.
As the new healthcare law goes into effect, more and more Americans will become aware of their benefits and the access they have (or don’t have) to good medical care. What if instead of waiting to become sick and visit the doctor, we stayed mostly healthy? What if we put our focus on taking care, in the here and now, to do everything we can to feel better, both emotionally and physically?
One of the most insidious things that steals our peace and puts us into a stressful cycle is negative self-talk. We often can’t control the events “out there” but we can control our reaction and dialogue – our running commentary – about those events. We can become more objective and more neutral instead of going into a negative spiral in reaction to what’s happening around us.
Think of a typical cycle – those of us who live in the northeast got up this morning to a very cold day. We know that winter is coming. It’s a sunny day but the cold has crept in. Some negative self-talk could be, “How much am I going to pay for heat this year? Every time I think I get ahead, another financial demand comes into my life. I just know this is going to be a terribly cold winter. I barely got through last winter.” And on and on and on. So far, nothing has happened except a cold day and a history from last year to reflect upon. Nothing else is “real” right now. But our minds grab onto a situation and run away with it, bringing us down with every negative thought.
We take everyday events, whether they happen to us or whether we read about them in the paper, and we can easily turn them into crisis situations. Alongside this, we aren’t aware that our palms are sweaty, our heart starts to palpitate and our breathing is ragged.
We need to slow down. We need to learn to check in with our own state. Why are we rushing? Why are we tense? Why are we running away with negative thoughts that take us down a nowhere road? We are making ourselves sick in the process.
If you’d like to learn how to turn a stressful situation into a positive one, through your own self-talk, I invite you to read “Self-Talk for a Calmer You.” Perhaps the prescriptions can be replaced by genuine love for your self. That’s a much cheaper and healthier dose!