Does life feel too hard too often?
Do you experience regular feelings of exhaustion, low-grade anxiety, anger, lack of self-worth, stress, and guilt?
“I can’t enjoy myself anymore, I just feel worried all the time.”
“I can’t be everything to everybody.”
“How am I supposed to work full-time and take care of the house, kids, bills, etc?”
“I just have no time for myself.”
“I shouldn’t have thoughts like this…”
These are the stories I hear from my women patients every day, and it is why I am writing this post.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that 90% of all visits to the doctor are stress-related, and that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety than men.
Heart disease has become the #1 killer of women, as breast and ovarian cancers continue to take countless lives.
But it wasn’t always like this, health wise, for womankind—so what gives?
Environmental factors and dietary issues play a role for sure.
But more than anything, I believe we are suffering from emotional toxicity overload brought on by an unprecedented number of physical, mental, and emotional stressors.
What are these stressors? How do they harm us, physically? And what tools can we use to eradicate them from our lives?
Read on to learn all this PLUS the latest science and research into the mind/emotion health connection.
The Physical Effects of Emotional Build-Up in Women
As women, we are powerfully emotional creatures. It’s what gives us our amazing intuition, capacity to love, and strength.
On the flip side, our deeper emotional intelligence seems to make us more susceptible to emotional toxicity.
There are a lot of fascinating theories out there on why and how emotions impact health, but let’s focus on the hard science first.
When you experience what I like to call “absence emotions” such as: anger (an absence of happiness), fear (an absence of courage), frustration (an absence of patience), etc. it causes your adrenals to increase their output of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Increased cortisol—whether it goes on for moments or years—leads to inflammation and depressed immune function.
Now, if this is temporary (like a bad day with a 2-year old) no big deal.
But, if you find yourself regularly experiencing bursts of absence emotions such as anger, jealousy, stress, etc., that chronic inflammation will cause your body to start breaking down, and depression, anxiety, autoimmune issues, insomnia, and hormonal imbalance will follow.
Want proof? Let’s look at some published studies on how emotions can negatively impact health…
Aside from the issues listed above, anger has been proven to significantly weaken your heart and cause muscle pain; especially in couples.
- Studies, like this couple’s study from UC Berkeley, show outbursts of anger can cause cardiovascular problems, and repression of anger can cause musculoskeletal issues, like back pain.
- Unresolved grief over the death of a spouse or partner, also known as “Broken Heart Syndrome” can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke by 50%.
- This study, from The Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, tells us guilt and shame also increase inflammation negatively affecting the immune system.
And countless studies have proven chronic worry contributes to leaky gut syndrome and other digestive ailments.
These represent just a handful of hundreds of studies linking emotions to physical health.
Now, let’s look at how your emotions can damage your organs from an Eastern perspective.
The Organ-Emotion-Connection from an Eastern Perspective
Many alternative forms of medicine, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), associate specific organs with specific emotions.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself in the form gut-feelings or a heavy heart.
In TCM, imbalance of the Liver is often associated with feelings of anger and frustration, the Lungs with sadness or grief, the Heart with anxiety or a lack of joy, the Bladder with fear, and the Stomach with worry.
It is believed if these issues aren’t resolved at a mental, physical, and emotional level that chronic organ conditions will develop.
The issues are in the tissues, as it’s been said. And considering the Chinese have been using this system of medicine successfully for thousands of years, their theory bears reflection.
Now, let’s look at the link between emotional issues and the BIG disease we all fear most: cancer.
Emotional issues and cancer, is there a viable link?
It’s now widely known that depressed immune function and inflammation are leading causes of cancer.
Doctors and scientists agree immune enhancing therapies are key in long-term cancer prevention and treatment.
Now, let’s look back at what we’ve learned.
When we experience regular bouts of absence emotions (anger, fear, depression, feelings of shame, worry, etc.) those feelings increase our cortisol levels, weaken our hearts, ruin our digestive system, etc. creating a cascade of chronic issues.
These repressed emotions, coupled with stress, become a ticking time bomb; depressing immune function and weakening our organs and systems.
In most every form of alternative cancer treatment, the mental and emotional health of the patient is treated with equal importance (sometimes more) as the physical health.
Patients receive therapy and tools to overcome traumas in addition to natural cancer remedies, and many of these treatments boast success rates far greater than that of conventional medicine.
Given what you now understand about how negative emotions affect immunity, one can understand why emotions can contribute to or “tip the scales” toward cancer.
Tools for Women to Overcome Emotional Roadblocks to Health
Obviously, it would be amazing if all of us could hire a holistically-minded therapist to help us work through our emotional absences.
If you can do that and see it through, then go for it.
However, if going into therapy is not available to you right now, or you feel your emotions are not deeply traumatic and could be handled by other means, here are some starting points.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)—this is a highly effective way of overcoming emotions through specific tapping of your body’s 12 meridian points. You can learn it quickly (and for free), it’s discreet to practice, and highly effective. Check out a demonstration here.
Mindfulness—mindful meditation is proving, in many cases, to be as effective as therapy for anxiety, depression, anger, etc. To learn more, check out the free course and guided meditations at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.
For more amazing tools, check out my previous post: Top 7 Emotional Detox Tools for Women.
Recommended Reading on the Emotion/Health Connection
- My series on Leaky Gut Syndrome will help you understand the role nutrition plays in your emotional health, especially Part 2: The Physiology behind Gut Psychology
- Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind Body Medicine by Candace B. Pert, Ph.D
- The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary
- The Biology of Belief by Dr. Bruce Lipton
- A Mind of Your Own by Dr. Kelly Brogan
- Anatomy of an Illness and Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit and anything else written by Norman Cousins
This is a HUGE topic and we’ve covered a lot of ground today.
Remember, achieving emotional balance is…well…a balancing act…especially if you have kids, career, and family in-tow.
Be kind to yourself as you begin this journey, and remember to treat your emotional well-being with as much care as your physical body.
You got this.