It happens almost every time I go out to the store . . . fear. Not on my part, but with almost everyone I encounter. Here’s what I see and maybe you do, too, if you pay attention. I’m walking down the isle or even at the end of the isle when someone looks up and immediately jumps back or to the side. Literally they jump. And, sometimes they take a drastic step to even bump into the shelf. I see it all the time.

It is becoming a conditioned response based on fear. Fear they are going to die if they touch or even get next to someone and fear they might not be following directions. Fear, none-the-less. I’m not preaching the “right or wrong” of all of this hubbub, but I must say that as a physician dealing with health for over 40 years, there are compounding responses by our bodies to continual fear. I say this because of working with emotions and body responses with thousands of patients in my practice.

There is a distinct difference in fear as I mentioned above and anxiety which we are also experiencing at this time. When everything we see or read in the news takes a negative approach, it’s nearly impossible to separate the two responses, especially when we are seeing the signs everywhere we go. Again, my position is not to judge the directions we are given to be “safe”, but to address the physiological responses we will experience from prolonged stress, whether fear or anxiety.

Here is how I see it. We are experiencing anxiety when we think of all the “bad” that might happen to us from a virus or a germ. Anxiety, for prolonged periods of time, is how we build up to real fear. Anxiety is watching the news, jousting on social media, and taking sides on our beliefs. And, remember, beliefs are 100% real to the believer. So, when we believe a certain way, focus on the negative, and experience anxiety over time, we set the stage for . . . fear. The person jumping in the store and knocking over a display is in total fear. Whether the fear is real or imagined is immaterial. It’s totally real to the believer. Again, overanxious for prolonged periods of time leads to brain patterns being unstoppably turned on. We call it a S.E.M.O. in Morter HealthSystem, and in this example anxiety is a low intensity stress over a long period of time.

Now, when you couple this pattern with the stress of going out to the store, being in a non-sterile environment, having to be around other people that might want to get close to you, the emotions run high and you can’t control them because you are already over the top from your anxiety. So, when you look up at me, your fight or flight response kicks in and fear overcomes you and you literally jump. This type of stress is a high intensity short duration stress at the grocery store. You jump, which now engrains the pattern into your physiology and your body/brain exhibit a whole new pattern of stress related to fear. And, when this happens, sometimes it just doesn’t turn off by itself. The challenge is that when your body experiences the repercussions of a S.E.M.O. like from fear, you ultimately get sick.

Your Cortisol levels go up which cause inflammation, your resistance goes down and what you thought was the best plan for you, might turn out to have the worst possible outcome. Whether its fear or anxiety, prolonged exposure might be worse for you in the long run than bumping into me at the store.