The wisteria is beginning to bloom. Thank God! It’s my annual reminder that we have survived another grotty winter and are so much closer to the those amazing, lazy summer months. The truth is that there seems to be little to celebrate at this time of the year; the period of time between the christmas tree going down and the easter eggs coming in. (Yep, I deliberately missed out St Valentine’s – I’m not on speaking terms with him right now). There is however, a lot to worry about and I am a grade A worrier. The list is endless; wars, recession, unemployment. And closer to home it doesn’t get any easier as I worry about my nearest and dearest. Heck I can even have sleepless nights over my daughter’s career prospects, her wedding and her pension fund – and she’s only 13! To add to my anxieties there is now scientific evidence that I could truly be stressing myself into sickness, premature aging and a shortened lifespan!
In an interview on Spain’s TVE Canal 2 last night Eduard Punset (REDES) spoke to Monica de la Fuente, a professor of physiology at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, about the aging process. And it got me thinking about the number of minor medical niggles which have been plaguing me and getting me down since Christmas. The University’s research points to the fact that the immune system whose principal function is to fight off viruses and infections, works closely with and is affected by the nervous system and the hormonal (endocrine) system. Ms de la Fuente points out that feeling anxious, depressed or suffering a loss can impair the immune system and make a person more susceptible to infections and serious illnesses. And although stress is a complex matter, what is stressful to one person is not so to another, small amounts of stress are crucial and prepare people for the challenges that life throws at them. Indeed a relaxed stress-free life without challenges does not generate the defences required to face stress and change. (Not a deficiency I have to concern myself with right now.) Thus individuals find they are emotionally unprepared unable to cope.
On a positive note the reverse is also true and positive emotions help to regulate the immune system and result in better health. So, all those hours spent watching the Comedy Channel were a sound investment in my health. Even more good news; it appears our genes account for 25% of our health and longevity whilst our lifestyle accounts for the remaining 75%. This puts over-anxious control fiends like me in control of the quality and length of our lives and our health. It is deeply empowering.
Healthy eating, exercise, sleeping well and staying mentally active are essential. Avoiding alchohol, drugs and obesity is vital. Yet , now that I know just how important it is to avoiding crippling anxieties there is just one more thing to worry about. To lose sleep about. So it’s back to the gym, to doing my pelvic floor exercises as I do the ironing, to focusing on deep abdominal breathing three times a day and that’s without the day job, the housework, my kids…. Still, should sleep soundly after all that. Spring is almost here! And if you, gentle reader, have any surefire stress relief tips – please share. xx
For a full transcript of the interview in Spanish go to www.redes.tve.es