Science, the same entity that frustrates you every night as you determine the molecular weight of Papain (23,406 da) or how many beers it takes to kill a cockroach (hint: don’t use yourself as a test subject) tells us that anxiety and stress can literally kill us. You are young, right? So who cares if stress kills you a little, right? Wrong.
If we constantly get worked up over everything, research suggests that our risk of early death increases from a variety of causes, including cancer, heart disease, and even accidents and injuries. In other words, stress kills. You don’t have to be sixty to die in a car wreck because you are too stressed to pay attention. And, studies are showing people are coming down with chronic diseases (cancer, heart disease, etc) at younger and younger ages.
The bad news is that stress can seem very very real, and cripples a lot of teens and adults. The good news is that one of the biggest myths about stress and anxiety keeps you locked into a feedback loop, and you can break it. This myth is that something “out there” or external to your brain causes it. Stress and anxiety are completely internal reactions to outside stimuli, i.e. your brain (and to a lesser extent, your body), determine what is stressful and what is not. Whether you believe it is caused by brain chemicals (it is) or it is controlled by the mind/working brain (it is), the result is that anxiety is quite literally “just in your head.”
The other day I was picking up some food for some friends, with another friend. We decided to stop for some coffee, because, well…why not? We waited in line. And waited. And waited, stuck between paying and getting our coffee. My friend started to get antsy and anxious. I was just enjoying being out, and took it in stride. A phone call came in and my friend freaked a little, suggesting maybe our friends were getting impatient. He ignored the call. We waited even more. He got a little more freaked. Finally, I just blurted out that we should relax and that our friends would wait.
When we arrived home, nobody was even slightly impatient. The phone call was about something else. And everyone was highly grateful for the coffee. Even if our friends had been impatient, and the call been a stress-filled rant, we still wouldn’t have made it through the coffee line any more quickly.
My point is that the issue boiled down to what was happening in our heads. We literally experienced the same external stimuli, with very different reactions. We had the same stimuli, and very different body physiology. I probably gained an hour of life, he probably lost one. My blood pressure stayed steady, and his dropped. I was well-composed driving, he may have been distracted.
Everyday little things work us up. These things barely matter a few minutes later, yet we allow them to shorten our lifespan. So, what has slowly killed you today? Below are a few things that have worked people up, including me. Don’t laugh. These may not be your particular issues, but I am sure you have your own. Actually, do laugh. You’ll live longer.
– Someone parking in your spot at school
– A restaurant meal being less cheesy than the previous time
– Getting a C on a section of an essay
– Getting a text at the wrong time
– Being de-friended on Instagram
– Being a few minutes late
– A magnet being moved a few centimeters on a freezer