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Fear: Your Health’s Enemy & How to Fight It
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
Tenafly , NJ
Saturday, March 21, 2020

Dr. Patricia A. Farrell

The coronavirus pandemic is pushing our bodies to where it can become unhealthy, not from the virus, but from things we are not controlling internally.


Fear is a natural emotion that is intended to help us survive, but it can also be a natural impediment to maintaining health; it can affect the immune system. Our brains don't distinguish whether we are facing a sabretooth tiger or the coronavirus. All it knows is that a fear response has been triggered, and it needs to call up the reserves to help us protect ourselves quickly.


Keeping our fear response in check is key to maintaining both our mental and physical health because of the excessive burden it can place on our body's "reserves." It can, wear our body out in any prolonged stressful effort. Therefore, we need to fight for our health and we can do it. All we need to do is to put two of our best forces for health into action; physical and mental activities.


First, understanding how fear's mental pressure works on our immune system might be helpful, so here's a bit of information on it.


Fear's Physical Actions


The driving force behind the power of fear in terms of our physical health revolves around two natural hormones; cortisol and epinephrine. Both are, in the best of times, protective and help drive us to physical action when needed. But cortisol alone, which is highest when we awaken in the morning, can place a burden on our body's immune system. If permitted to go unchecked, we begin a process outlined by the psychologist, Hans Selye, who provided the step-by-step manner in which cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) works.


Called the General Adaptation Syndrome, Selye outlined the three-stage reaction to stress as follows:


1. Alarm reaction where a signal of "danger" of any type is sent to the brain, which then begins releasing the stress hormones. There is an energy boost, an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure, and blood sugar levels go up. Why sugar? Because the liver is providing stored sugars to give us an energy surge to flee or fight for our lives. Remember that "fight or flight" we've all been hearing about? This is it.

2. Resistance comes next where the body attempts to return to normal function and to tamp down the stress hormones and return blood pressure and heart rate to normal levels. But if the stressful situation continues, this stage will not act in its usual action of returning to normal. The alarm stage will keep pumping out the stress hormones. One result of this continued stress is difficulty concentrating and increased irritability.

3. Exhaustion is the final stage, and it is here that our energy reserves are depleted, and it brings with it a feeling of being tired, depressed, anxious, and a sense of being unable to cope with the stress any longer.


It is the most severe stage, and it is here that it affects our health. It's as though your immune system is beaten down to the point that it gives up and allows illness, including all those immune-system diseases, a heyday. Put a stop to it right now.


Stress Reducers


The battle is now, and we need to become aware and proactive. What are some of the actions we can take immediately to keep ourselves and our immune system in better shape? Try a few of these and see how you will manage to do better.


Exercise: We know that walking is one of the best activities we have, but most of us don't know that it can also reduce the pull on the immune system. In this way, exercise acts as a "natural medicine" to brings us back to normal functioning.

What type of exercise? If there's a park nearby, you can benefit from what's known as "forest bathing," which has proven to help maintain health. All it takes is a walk in any wooded area or field or garden. We're not sure why it does it, but it helps change our attitudes, calm us, and pull us back from the brink of fear and stress.

Walk in place in your home, and that will help, too. Walk up and down stairs and try to keep walking wherever you can around the house or the neighborhood. Pick up canned vegetables and do some simple exercises with them. You can find these on YouTube or many sites on the internet.

Mindfulness: The "here and now" doesn't have to be stressful if you allow yourself 10-15 minutes of sitting quietly in place and taking your thoughts on a journey of relaxation. I suggest thinking about a place you've found calming such as a beach, a lake, a trip to a national park. Go there in your mind, and as you do, fall deeply into the chair where you're sitting. Nothing else should be on your mind.

Relaxation breathing: Breathing is natural, but you can also turn it around to be a calming technique that takes three-four minutes. You can do it wherever you are, whenever you want and it WILL work. How does it do it? It changes the blood chemistry slightly, and that brings on the feeling of relaxation your brain craves right now. Here's a video I made on it. Don't skimp and allow yourself this little luxury throughout the day.

Humor: Laughing is a form of exercise, and it also "tricks" the mind into a less stressful state and calms your emotions. Even smiling has a positive effect on the brain's activities and our feelings. Where do you find humor? Again, check out YouTube, look at your TV for comedy programs, download things you've discovered, make you laugh, and keep them ready on your computer.

Laughter is going to be another of those "natural medicines" that are under your control. Engage it whenever you can and try to find the humor in things throughout the day.

Reading: Comedy writers have written books, and they can act as stress-relievers, too. Take a look at what is being offered and permit yourself the joy of reading, which, in and of itself, is a means of relaxing.

Music: What music brings your playful side out and makes you want to dance? Ok, get it going and play it on your devices, in your home or your car. Music, as they say, can "soothe the savage breast," and it can bring down stress, too. Researchers have found that it has incredible power to calm us.


Now you've got six ways to help yourself. Use them and use them frequently. As I've said, don't skimp or deny yourself. We are in a fight for our health, and we must employ all that will help us in that fight.

Website: www.drfarrell.net

Author's page: http://amzn.to/2rVYB0J

Medium page: https://medium.com/@drpatfarrell

Attribution of this material is appreciated.

Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Tenafly, NJ
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