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Stress, worry and gut health

by Amber Fairweather |

Stress has a direct impact on our gut health. Stress affects our digestion and the absorption of nutrients. A healthy intestines has a tight barrier of cells to protect the body from pathogens and and nutrients leaking through the digestive lining.  Stress can weaken these barriers causing gaps for bacteria and nutrients to enter through the wall linings; this triggers autoimmune responses such as eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, allergies and so much more.

 

So, how can we deal with worry?

Some people spend a significant time worrying. Attending to worry, tends to reinforce worry by believing it is uncontrollable.

According to Brokovec, Wilkinson, Folsenbee & Lerman’s (1983) research, by deliberately choosing to delay worry, we can significantly reduce the amount of daily worry.  

Worry postponement has demonstrated to be beneficial for a range of effects:

  •   It can illustrate to someone that worries typically circulate around a similar limited number of themes. For example: always money, or relationship, or academics, or safety
  •   It allows for people to realize that if you postpone your worries, often they can feel irrelevant by the time they are revisited.
  •   It challenges the beliefs regarding the uncontrollability of worry.
  •   Reduces people’s feelings of urgency to engage with the worry.

 

 

 How to implement “Worry Postponement” intervention /activity


Step 1: First we need to understand that we can categorize our worries into two baskets.

  1.   Real life worry- “I have lost my phone.”
  2.   Hypothetical worry- “What if I don’t make that meeting on time”.

Step 2: Choose a time of day that you will set aside specifically dedicated to worrying, and decide how long it will be for. Choose a time where you will not be disturbed, and a time of day that you will be in the best frame of mind to dedicate to the purpose of worrying. For example: every day for 10-20 mins at 7pm.

 

Step 3: When worries arise during the day; ask yourself: “Are these real event worries that you can act on now, or are these hypothetical worries that need to be postponed? 

Step 4: What to do during your dedicated worry time.

Write down all the hypothetical worries you can remember from the day. Rate your worries on a scale of 1-10 of how concerning they are to you now. Are any of these worries the kind of worries that you can take practical actions over?

Try to use all of your worry time to identify, write down and take note of your worries, even if you do not feel like you have much to worry about or the worries do not seem urgent at the time.

Reflect on these worries. Do they give you the same emotional response when you think of them now as they did when you first thought of them?

Can any of your worries be addressed with practical solutions? If so, then what could you do to attend to these? Write a plan of what you need to do to solve these worries and action your plan. 



How do I know if my worry is a problem? 

  • Everyone worries to some degree. Worry can become a problem when it stops you from living the life you want to live, or if it leaves you feeling demoralised and exhausted. 
  • Normal worry often centres around more real-life worries.
  • Excessive worry will often be consumed by hypothetical worries.
  • Normal worrying will be triggered by an event (such as losing your phone) whereas excessive worrying might be habitual. 
  • Most people feel they have some control over their worries. Excessive worry results in feelings of experiencing uncontrollable worry and therefore you spend more time worrying. 

If worrying is interfering with your daily activities and consuming you, you need to seek support.