Mind over Matter: Chronic Health and Anxiety

Physiological distress can manifest into many physical discomforts; thus, properly harnessing the power of your mind can help you improve chronic health issues caused by anxiety. Anxiety can wreak havoc on the physical body, from sleeplessness to poor concentration. It can cause severe changes to appetite, leaving people without any desire for food or the urge to overeat. Many individuals with anxiety disorders experience muscle tension and bowel dysfunction as well. The list of possible somatic issues stemming from anxiety are endless, as anxiety is intricately bound with stress, and stress effects every part of our bodies.

The key to unlocking chronic health issues lies in conquering anxiety, which is fundamentally a psychological matter. While there is some evidence of genetic predispositions to anxiety disorders, anxiety is within the realm of individual control. Even life-long anxious character traits are amenable to psychological treatment. Anxiety may never go away completely, but it can be reduced by training the mind. Once the underlying anxiety is reduced, chronic health issues related to anxiety may remit quickly.

Does Mind Over Matter Work?

Imagine experiencing a few sneezes in an airport. Will you tell yourself that you’re about to develop a major case of the flu that will make you miserably sick for a week, or will you tell yourself that something must have tickled your nose and that the sensation will soon pass? In either case, you are telling your body something, and oftentimes, it will act accordingly.

The mind-body connection has been well studied by researchers for many years. In fact, the U.S. Federal Government funded the Mind-Body Interactions and Health Program from 1999-2009, supporting 15 research centers and 44 research projects. The program investigated the relationships among thoughts, emotions, personality, relationships, and health. Ongoing research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology continues, as leading scientists seek to understand how the mind influences our physical bodies. They no longer question if thoughts and emotions matter, but rather how these various influences interact to support or hinder health.

The Psychological Connection

If you experience chronic health issues and anxiety, see your medical professional to sort out which ailments might stem from anxiety. For example, irritable bowel syndrome may be implicated with anxiety, but diabetes is not. Let your health professional guide you. Once you determine which ailments to tackle, you can employ a vast array of mind/body modalities to help. One of the simplest is called self-talk, which describes how you should form your inner dialogue in any given situation.

Self-talk

The first step is to analyze your current self-talk. What do you say to yourself about life? Are you positive and hopeful? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? When you hear of someone else’s success are you happy for them, or do you discount and begrudge someone’s achievement? What do you say when you look at yourself in the mirror? Is it kind or is it cruel? Self-talk takes all that into account, everything you say to yourself and about yourself, even what you think about others.

One of the first steps to conquering anxiety and the chronic health conditions that accompany it is to commit yourself to being a tiny bit more optimistic, positive and hopeful, each day. This is not a quick fix, and no one can do it for you, but just like daily vitamins, a daily dose of positive self-talk can do wonders for your health. If you’ve experienced anxiety for several years, it will take time to catch your less-than-positive thoughts and redirect them.

Counseling

Even careful analysis of your self-talk might not be enough to change long-standing habits of attitude. A holistic health counselor, rather than a mental health counselor, may offer many resources to better physical and psychological wellness. A holistic health counselor may offer referrals to local mind/body practitioners, which may be of great help in researching non-traditional healing methods. In general, pharmaceutical medications, and even conventional physicians, are often avoided by those seeking to use mind-body modalities to health.

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