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Don’t dwell, it could damage your health
Researchers from Ohio University found that when study participants were asked to reflect on stressful occasions, their levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of tissue inflammation, rose. The study is the first to directly measure this effect in the body, according to Dr Peggy Zoccola, lead author in the study. “’Much of the past work has looked at this in non-experimental designs. Researchers have asked people to report their tendency to ruminate, and then looked to see if it connected to physiological issues, it’s been correlational for the most part,” she said.
The research team recruited 34 healthy, young women. Each was asked to give a speech about her candidacy for a job to two interviewers, who listened intently with stone-faced expressions. (We all know how stressful job interviews can be, so I’m sure we can all imagine the feelings blank stares would engender).
After the meeting, half of the women were asked to contemplate their performance in the public speaking task, while the other half were asked to think about neutral images and activities, such as sailing ships or grocery store trips. The researchers then drew blood samples, which showed that the levels of C-reactive protein were significantly higher in the subjects who were asked to dwell on the speech. For these women, the levels of the inflammatory marker continued to rise for at least an hour after the speech. During the same time period, the marker returned to starting levels in participants who had been asked to focus on other thoughts.
So why does this study matter? The worry (excuse the pun) is, that chronic inflammation is increasingly being associated with a number of medical disorders and conditions.
“The immune system plays an important role in various cardiovascular disorders, such as heart disease, as well as cancer, dementia and autoimmune diseases,” Zoccola said. “The C-reactive protein is primarily produced by the liver as part of the immune system’s inflammatory response. It rises in response to traumas, injuries or infections in the body,” she explained. It’s key, therefore, that we learn to keep this protein under control, and learn not to dwell, but to move on from tricky situations.
If you do find yourself lingering over stressful events, long after they’ve passed, take a note of these helpful hints:
– Ask yourself is your worry solvable? If not, there’s no use in worrying over it.
– Be realistic. I you believe your worry is solvable, come up with a realistic solution, not a perfect one.
– Create a worry period. This is a short, set amount of time during the day that you set aside to address what is causing you stress and why. This should be the only time you allow yourself to think about your worries.
– Don’t skip on sleep. Worrying tends to interfere with sleep, both of which are not good for your health. Setting your worry time for right before bed isn’t a great idea.
Are you a dweller or do you move on after traumatic events? How do you manage worry and stress? Share your thoughts below, readers.