How Fear, Anger, Stress and Bitterness affect our Health
July 14, 2020 - Episode #24 - How Fear, Anger, Stress and Bitterness affect our Health
It truly feels like we're in a horror movie that just won't stop. There is nothing that could have prepared us for such a extreme global pandemic resulting in a worldwide quarantine, and then the dramatic unrest that is seeding in America, as we battle over the topic of racism. But as we struggle with fear and certainty, stress, anger, hatred, bitterness, the question remains... Are these feelings and emotions affecting our health? You better believe it. And the research supports this. A growing body of research shows that your state of mind may have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing. A recent study from Concordia University has found that constant bitterness can make a person ill. Holding on to bitterness, can affect metabolism, immune response and organ function, and may even lead to disease. Scientists for some time had been looking at what shapes health and what shapes illness. They've identified that personality traits are linked to health or lack thereof. Anger, and hostility being linked to physical illness. And optimism being linked to longevity! It's interesting and really makes the case for mind and body connection. Listen in as we connect the dots on how stress, anger, fear and hatred affect not only our mental and emotional wellbeing but most critically our physical health! Are our feelings and emotions weakening our immune system at the most crucial time?? This is our hot topic today on Healthy Harmony.
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July 14, 2020 - Episode #24 - How Fear, Anger, Stress and Bitterness affect our Health
Fear anger, anxiety, bitterness.
It just seems to be the way the world is nowadays. How is that impacting our overall health? Is it weakening our immune system at a time where we are very susceptible?? This is our hot topic today on Healthy Harmony.
Welcome to Healthy Harmony, where we help you clarify and discuss health tactics to harmonize your life. I'm your host and health coach, Jennifer Pickett. And today we're talking about the impact of anger and bitterness on your health.
I'm going to confess something I'm not always great at journaling, even though I know what a great practice it can be. However, during the quarantine, I was determined to journal daily. So looking back at my journal entries really echoes my thoughts for today. A segment of one of those journal entry reads. It's that crushing feeling. When you wake up, we are still in the biggest crisis that will literally change our labs forever. There is honestly no end in sight, and sometimes it just gets to you. The anxiety and depression are creeping in, and I'm having to admit to myself that I do struggle with this. This entry was written on April 9th fast-forward to today.
It truly feels like we're in a horror movie that just won't stop. There is nothing that could have prepared us for such a extreme global pandemic resulting in a world wide quarantine, and then the dramatic unrest that is seeding in America, as we battle over the topic of racism. But as we struggle with fear and certainty, stress, anger, hatred, bitterness, the question remains are these feelings and emotions affecting our health? You better believe it. And the research supports this. A growing body of research shows that your state of mind may have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing. A recent study from Concordia university has found that constant bitterness can make a person ill. Holding on to bitterness, can affect metabolism, immune response and organ function, and may even lead to disease. Scientists for some time had been looking at what shapes health and what shapes illness. They've identified that personality traits are linked to health or lack thereof. Anger, and hostility being linked to physical illness. And optimism being linked to longevity.
It's interesting and really makes the case for mind and body connection. Well, in the past, we have quickly dismissed, mind and body connection. We are now starting to see how interconnected and dependent the mind and body are our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and, and attitudes can either positively or negatively affect our biologic functioning. In other words, our minds can affect how healthy our bodies are. On the other hand, what we do with our physical body, how we treat our physical body, what we eat, how much we exercise, how we manage stress, the quantity and quality of sleep can impact our, our mental state. Again, either in a positive manner or a negative manner. This results in a very complex inter relationship between our minds and bodies.
We cannot separate the two. They dramatically affect each other. So why all the talk about mind and body connection? Look around our world has been thrust into a global pandemic. In the United States, we’re seeing extreme unrest, anger, and bitterness over race relations. I think I would be hard pressed to find someone who would say that they are not impacted by the dramatic rise in stress. The scary part of this is that it is impacting our health. It's decreasing our immune system at a most critical time when our immunity is top priority. You know, this reminds me of a recent situation with one of my clients and, and, and I had been working together for a few months now and really identifying what was holding her back on her health journey. We quickly realized that one of her biggest obstacles was poorly managed stress and how stress emotional health and negativity was really sabotaging her.
I loved how she started making progress. After we identified this, she started taking control of her thought life and putting a stronger emphasis on making sure that her soul was nourished, but then COVID hit and things got rough, stress levels are high, and she suffered through some really tough setbacks, really tough setbacks. I mean, let's be honest. This is completely understandable during such a horrendous time of uncertainty, but here is what I love and is using that time at the setback. So she can make a comeback. You see, once you've identified those big roadblocks, those barriers that just had to get in your way, and you have a plan to get over those roadblocks, you know what to do because Andy and I had been working together and had a plan. She found it easier to get back on track. I loved seeing her get back on track.
It is one of my greatest joys as a coach is helping someone to become an over comer. Here's an excerpt from a recent Facebook post that she made and wrote. “I love to keep an open mind and stay informed. However, I had to lead several Facebook groups due to the negativity and hatred in an increasing number of posts. I do not believe in living in a bubble, but I do believe what you think is what you become. Negativity, breeds, negativity, hatred, breeds hatred. I also believe that negativity and hatred increases a person's stress level, which increases cortisol levels, which negatively impacts the health of the immune system. So I will choose positivity. I will choose love. I will choose to sit on my porch swing and saying praise and worship songs of key. I will choose to live a life of peace. What do you choose?” That was Ann's Facebook posts. I loved that. And you know what? She's right. Negativity breeds, negativity and hatred breeds hatred, and it does affect our health. Just a side note. And I know you're listening, my friend, I'm so proud of you and I love being your coach.
Let's look a little bit more at the science behind what happens in the body when stressed, and how it impacts our immune system. Stress can be described as either real or perceived danger. It sets into motion a range of physical responses. So the body responds by preparing itself for fight or to run away. This is commonly known as the fight or flight response. You may have heard of this fight or flight. It involves the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. So some of the physiologic changes that happen in the body that are triggered by the fight or flight response are first of all, a release of the inflammatory hormone called cortisol. Secondly, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Also diversion of blood from the hands and the feet to the large muscles to prepare for fighting or fleeing. We know that digestion either slows or stops. There's a mobilization of your glucose or blood sugar to sustain energy. There's increased perspiration to assist with keeping the body cool. And finally, there's also an increase in platelet had ease of newness, which means in layman's terms, the blood becomes stickier so that if something happened, it is more able to stop bleeding after the actual danger or the perceived danger has passed.
The body goes back to normal because this state is not a balanced state and the body desperately wants to return back to normal. The parasympathetic nervous system is what is responsible for recuperation and bringing the body back to that balanced state, by the way that balanced state is called homeostasis, I like to call it harmony the way our body responds to stress that physical stress response is so important, especially when it is only activated in an appropriate manner and only activated occasionally every once in a while. Meaning not frequently. It’s both healthy and it's natural that fight or flight mode. Honestly, the human species would not have survived without fight or flight mode. The problem comes when stressful situations continue without giving the body a chance to calm down and return to homeostasis that balanced harmonious state. And if you look at how we normally live life, even outside of this pandemic, we are constantly running, pushing ourselves to the absolute brink and burning the candle at both ends.
Yeah. And now it is 100,000 times worse considering all that's going on in our world. Then this chronic stress leads to exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and it weakens the immune system.
So we are susceptible to every thing and I mean everything, the common, cold, flu, viruses and disease. I know, I know just hearing this is somewhat overwhelming for most of us stress or in better terms, poorly managed stress. Hey, that's all we know. It's our, go-to our fallback.
We respond to the fear, the stress, the anger, the bitterness, the numbing, the pain with, by the way more behaviors that affect our immune system over eating over drinking, staying up late to binge on Netflix, mindlessly scrolling, social media, over consuming mainstream media. It puts us into a hyper stressed out cortisol driven state that weakens our body's ability to fight the question is, can we manage the stress and embrace our mental and emotional health so that we can take control of our overall health and wellbeing?
And how do you do that? When things seem so bad? Allow me to share a story with you. Part of my background in healthcare is in Oncology. Many, many years ago, when I got offered my first job as a Dietitian at Baptist Health Systems in Jackson, Mississippi, there were two dietetic positions open, although a Dietitian covered all and everything. You worked in a specialty area. So the two positions that you could choose from were either Diabetes or Oncology. So I got a choice after landing my first job to choose between Diabetes or Oncology, which is also cancer care. I was so young, so green that it was very clear to me that I should choose Oncology. And I will tell you that those years were absolutely formative to me. I learned so much from my patients who are nearing the end of their journey here on earth.
One such patient really stands out in my mind. His name was Mr. Charles. He had a head and neck, his tumor was located on his neck. It was fungating, or what you call ulcerating meaning this tumor was not just the lump. It was an open, ugly wound. I saw Mr. Charles fairly frequently. And fortunately with his cancer, he had all sorts of complications and the tumor made it extremely difficult to swallow. This dear man, he knew exactly how he was going to die. Honestly, all of us healthcare workers knew how he would pass. That tumor was growing and spreading. He knew, and we knew that he would die when that growing tumor hit his carotid artery and he would bleed out. He had received all treatment possible. It was heartbreaking. It was only a matter of time.
That here's the thing. Every time I saw Mr. Charles and I mean every time I saw him, I would say, how are you doing Mr. Charles? He would respond with a smile in his eyes, in a rasp, in his voice. And he would say, I'm blessed. I'm blessed! Incredible, this man with a huge, ugly tumor on his neck who knew exactly how he was going to die would respond. I'm blessed. I mean, what in the world, he had every single right to be fearful, angry, bitter that he chose a different route. He chose a different response. I will never ever forget that. Dear man!
You know, in most circumstances we can't run away or change the situation. We certainly cannot change the state that our world is in, but we can change the way we respond by in large part of that quote unquote danger that leads to distress response is in the mind. The anticipation of adverse events thinking about and really exaggerating what might happen.
Okay. Let me raise my hand on this. I know I'm guilty of this for most of us, these trains of thought they run on autopilot feelings like anger, hostility, fear, envy, bitterness, and hate. They evoke the stress response that fight or flight mode. If these failings are persistent, the body's capability to stay healthy and fight off illness that comes impaired. That's why we have to look at this. The fear, the anger, that bitterness is literally palpable in the air now days. And honestly, so many of you have every single right to be fearful, to be angry, to be bitter. You might have Corona virus. You may have lost someone to Corona virus. There could be significant loss of income or loss of a job. There's family issues. Just the tremendous impact from the racial unrest in our country. It may be stirring at past trauma for you to go from day to day, feeling like, Oh, my word, what's next.
Yes, you have every right to feel fearful, to feel bitterness. As you look at how people are behaving in the world, around you, every right. It's important that we face those feelings, but it's important. We look at this as well. How is that serving you? How is that impacting your health? Is it increasing your God, given immunity and building up your immune system? Or is it hindering your immune function and making you weaker at a very critical time? The mind and body are connected. There's no doubt about it. Poorly managed stress impacts our health drastically. I'm not here to say I've got all the answers and to say that there's just some simple solution, but more so just to make you aware, I'm amazed and shocked how there is little to no. Talk about what affects our immune system. Why are we not talking about what builds up our immune system and what breaks it down?
It, it absolutely angers me. And let me tell you, it comes down to money and politics. The system does not benefit when you're healthy and happy because you're taking care of yourself. The system benefits when you are dependent on it, y'all it's time to be aware. It's time to be your own best health advocate. It's time to look at your feelings, your emotions, your mental health, your emotional health, and how it affects your immune function. It is absolutely imperative that we manage the stress that is bombarding us and wrecking our health. So what to do, you may need a break from certain groups or discussions that have gotten solely negative. You might need to cut back on mainstream media. It could be that you need to make self-care a priority again, and focus on building up your immune function. And you know what? You may need some help, a pastor, a counselor, a health coach.
These are crazy and uncertain times I'm not here to give you some trite answer or a simple formula. They can just make this all better. It doesn't work that way. And I'm certainly not here to diminish the suffering that we see in the world today. But I'm here to offer some words of encouragement and empower you to address all aspects of your health, including your mental and emotional health. These are anxious times for me personally, and I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and that's easier said than done, right? I'm really trying to limit my time watching the news and just mindlessly scrolling on social media. I'm trying to make self-care a priority by addressing soul nourishment first and foremost, by trusting the Creator of this world.
I certainly can not figure this out by myself. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you during this time. If you're considering working with the health coach, you might be wondering, Hey, I don't even know what that looks like. I've never worked with the health coach. I don't know what's involved. Hey, I would love to chat with you and kind of show you how that process looks and how it can benefit you. You can email me at email@example.com. And as always, you can subscribe on your favorite platform of choice, Facebook or instagram@inspirehealthyharmony and find more podcasts and cooking videos at inspirehealthyharmony.com. My goal is simply to be a resource and an encouragement for you during these difficult times, Two podcasts in particular that really relate to today's topic that I want to refer you to. Number one at boosting your body's immune function, boosting your body's immunity. That's episode 13, that aired on April 7th. And another one is forget the expectations, which was a great discussion about pacing, that the lanes and that happened with my friend, Justine [inaudible], who is a mental health counselor, that one aired April 14th. Again, you can find all of these podcasts on inspire healthy harmony.com and look under media. So check those out until we meet again. I hope you have a happy and healthy day. Bye y'all.