Health Anxiety: How to Cope in a Pandemic

Recognising Health Anxiety: The First Step

I can still remember the day when Oscar, our German shepherd, had his first health scare. It was a bright sunny morning in Adelaide and our lovable companion had suddenly taken ill, making us rush to the vet's office in panic. Turns out, it was just a case of over-indulgence, thanks to sneaking a bit too much of Melissa's world-class Shepard's Pie. This served as a simple and early example of how anxiety, especially health anxiety, can sometimes make mountains out of molehills.

Health anxiety, for those who might not be familiar, is an overwhelming fear of obtaining a serious illness, even when no symptoms are present. Nowadays, primarily due to the prevalent pandemic situation, it seems to be more common than one might expect. Of course, fear and stress are normal reactions to uncertain situations, but excessive worry about your health, to the point where it affects your quality of life, is something to be addressed.

Understanding the Past: The Origin of Your Anxiety

If you're reading this, chances are you might be experiencing health anxiety yourselves or know someone who is. An important step towards managing it is understanding where it originates. Your emotional response to stressful events has a significant impact on your health anxiety. Remember, like our parakeet, Sky, who panics every time there's a rumble of thunder, often we end up reacting to past traumas rather than present circumstances.

It's a bit like when Sky first heard thunder - he was shocked and panicked, flew about crazily. Now, he still reacts the same way even though he's been through countless thunderstorms and none have harmed him. Is it rational? Not really. But the instinctive responses were hardwired into him from the first experience. Similar to this, our health anxieties often stem from past experiences that have created deep-rooted fear within us.

Navigating the Sea of Information: Avoiding Triggering Factors

In this digital age, a significant amount of our health anxiety comes from the ready availability of health-related information. Try to avoid diagnosing yourself through internet articles (ironic, I know!), which instead of providing clarity, may only escalate your fears.

Google can tell you there are 100 symptoms for a migraine, but it cannot tell you that you have one. That's a doctor's job. The internet is like a sea, vast and deep, and delving into it unsupervised can sometimes leave us drowning. Medical information available online is a boon for general awareness, however, excessive reliance on such material can fuel health anxieties.

Venture into Mindfulness: Finding the Anchor

Simply understanding that your worry might be excessive isn't enough. But don't you despair my friend, I've got brilliant news for you. You can manage and reduce health anxiety. The answer for many is as simple as adopting a mindfulness routine.

Have you ever noticed how calm Oscar seems when he sits by the window, watching birds in the park? He’s in a state of mindfulness, living in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness means creating a state of active, open attention on the present. When you become aware of your surroundings, your anxiety about potential health issues gradually fades away. You focus on what you're doing and how you're feeling right now, rather than anticipating what may happen in the future.

Get Moving: The Miraculous Impact of Exercise

I've learned more about dealing with anxiety from Oscar than any psychology book I’ve read. Exercise is their default distressing tool. Dogs are smart, they don't bother about tomorrow's weather or the next meal's menu. They live in the moment. And when they are done for the day, they have a rollicking good time running around the yard.

A regular exercise routine is not just beneficial for physical health but also mental health. It releases the happy hormones. You don't necessarily need a rigorous workout routine. Simple exercises like brisk walking, or light jogging can work wonders in reducing anxiety. Often while watching Sky fly around the house, I understand how liberating it is to just let your body experience the freedom of movement.

Seeking Professional Help: It's Ok to Ask for Help

Remember it's absolutely fine to seek professional help if you're struggling to manage health anxiety on your own. There's no stigma in seeking help. Even superheroes have sidekicks, don't they? Just consider therapists as your sidekicks in your battle against anxiety.

Take Melissa, for instance, my rock and safety net. She navigates her way through rough waters with poise and grace. She hasn't done it all alone though. When things got a bit too rough to handle, she reached out for help–now, she is better equipped to manage her anxiety. It's like being lost in a well-known city without a map, sometimes you need to ask for directions, and that's perfectly alright.

If you're suffering from health anxiety, know that you're not alone. Reaching out to a mental health professional can provide you with the coping strategies tailored to your specific needs. Break free from the chains of constant fear and start living the healthy life you're meant to live. Like the old saying goes, "To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all!"