Anxiety & Health

By Anna Hehenberger

It is common knowledge that anxiety and stress can have detrimental effects on your health.  Countless articles have been published on the subject, and WebMD has a page dedicated to the subject.  (See http://www.webmd.com/depression/stress-anxiety-depression.)  As described in the WebMD page, “[s]tress is linked to six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and even suicide.”

I have experienced some of the side effects of stress first hand.  When anxious, it is more difficult to sleep, one tends to make unhealthy choices when it comes to food, and as such the body becomes more susceptible to infection and disease.  While under abnormal stress, I am much more likely to develop colds or worse.

This week, however, I wanted to take a moment to focus not on my struggle with controlling and handling stress in the most healthful and productive way possible, but to highlight how excellent stress management can cause miraculous results when a person is faced with serious health problems.

My dear friend, let me refer to him as John, was diagnosed with an unusual disorder a few years ago, severe aplastic anemia.  (See http://bethematch.org/for-patients-and-families/learning-about-your-disease/severe-aplastic-anemia/.)  As a result, he was referred to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for treatment.  After rounds of chemotherapy and countless transfusions, John was able to return to a normal life.  This sense of normality lasted only a few years, however, and earlier this year it was determined that John required a bone marrow transplant.

When I heard the news I burst into tears because I thought that he has fought hard and long enough.  But when I reached out to John to see how he was doing, I could not have heard a more positive attitude on the other end of the line.  John’s father donated bone marrow to him, and the results have been quite positive.  John is producing his own blood cells now and continues to smile.

A positive attitude is but one factor in John’s continuous recovery, of course.  Happy and relaxed people undoubtedly become sick.  However, a positive attitude and a fight to overcome whatever unfair obstacle your body places in your path to health can only benefit those suffering from chronic disease, as well as anyone fighting the common cold.

I see a clear resemblance in the attitude of my friend John, as well as that of my sister, Lyfebulb’s founder, Karin Hehenberger.  I have often wondered how Karin does it; how she continues to smile, to compete, to grow.  But I suppose that when you do not actually have a choice because the alternative could be deadly, the choice is clear.  Both Karin and John inspire me to not let work stress, arguments with friends and family, or superficial issues like dress size, bring me down.  I thank them both for the everyday motivation to smile, laugh, and move forward.  

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