Worry Is Like a Half-Death

It keeps you from living your life NOW

Regina Clarke

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Peaceful photo of Nature
Gundula Vogel

If we listen to the news, if we even just skim the headlines, our adrenaline spikes and that “rush” of adrenaline brings us a “fight or flight” response. We feel it because we have entered a state of worry, yet feel helpless to alter the outcomes of what we hear or read. The physical effects of adrenaline can last thirty minutes to an hour or more. If our feeling of worry stays with us, so do the effects of adrenaline, and it takes a great toll on the body.

Back in the Ice Age, the “fight or flight” response was critical for survival, for it brought an influx of cortisol into our ancient limbic brain and its amygdala, signaling danger, and could make the difference between escaping the sabre-toothed tiger or bringing down the woolly mammoth for food. It is still valuable as a defense mechanism if our lives are in actual physical danger.

But just by reading the cascade of negative headlines every day, we are not in physical danger. We do not need to run, and in the moment of reading or listening to the news, we do not need to physically fight anything or anyone. Not in that moment. The problem is, that rush of adrenaline continues even so — because we project worry onto the situations we are not actually experiencing, making that adrenaline rush a false outcome — telling our body to keep the adrenaline going even when no one and no creature is chasing us or attacking us.

“Fight or flight” is meant to be short-term and our bodies are not made to sustain ongoing stress that doesn’t let up. Soldiers in war know the effects of such ongoing stress and it comes out in PTSD. People who survive school shootings know the effects of such stress. They all re-live personal experiences and need help letting go of the extreme fear they had to undergo so they can once again manage a life free of such fear.

But reading the news appears to produce the same effect on the psyche over time! Activation of the amygdala produces intense emotions of either aggression or fear. The barrage of negative information we receive 24/7 encourages this and affects our mental health in severe and ongoing ways if there is no let up of worry about our own safety and security.

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Regina Clarke

Storyteller and dreamer. I write about the English language, being human, the magic of life, and metaphysics. Ph.D. in English Literature. www.regina-clarke.com