face-1742057_1920Worry is something we try not to do, but are not always successful. We know it is not good for us, so why do we do it? Actually, there are many reasons. We may falsely believe worry serves a purpose, stops bad things from happening, prepares us for the worst outcome possible, allows us to control external events, shows caring, or makes us feel like we are doing something. Any of these falsehoods can keep worry alive and not well.

Worry takes a toll on our physical, emotional, relational and spiritual lives. Worry strangles (the literal meaning of the word) the joy out of life. And worry is bad for the physical body. When you hear the phrase “worried sick,” there is truth in those words.

The physical toll of worry was serious in Ken’s case. His doctor believed worry was the source of Ken’s heart problems. After reviewing the stress Ken was under, the doctor asked, “Ken, what are you doing with all that stress?” Ken had no answers but to say that he worried a lot about this life and work. The more he thought about it, the more he realized he had no outlet for stress and was unable to turn worry off. He had never considered that worry was placing him in physical danger.

Stress hormones are released during worry and damage is done to the body. A chronic state of worry can lead to immune suppression, digestive problems, muscle tension and short-term memory loss. And worry activates the cardiovascular system in negative ways. It can cause cardiac activation regardless of whether or not worry pans out. In fact, high levels of worry can cause coronary heart disease and lead to unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking that bring early death.

Letting go of worry is essential for good health. For Ken, the prescription to stop the worried life involved a few major changes. He had to learn to calm his physical body down along with his mind. He did not realize the amount of tension he carried in his body. After booking his first massage, he realized how tense his physical body was on a daily basis.

So Ken added exercise to his weekly routine. He also practiced distracting his mind away from worried thoughts. And at the end of the day, he engaged in progressive muscle relaxation in order to wind down his physical body. When worried thoughts came to his mind, he focused on deep breathing to calm his body.

Over time, Ken was able to release the tension in his physical body while learning to take worried thoughts captive. As a result, his health improved and Ken is no longer worried sick!

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