Understanding Health Anxiety
In recent years, I've noticed more and more conversations among my friends, family, and even social media community about a term called 'Health Anxiety.' It seems like nowadays, especially in the context of the global pandemic, worrying about health has become an all-too-common part of our everyday lives.
Health anxiety, also known as illness anxiety, is when fears or worries about health become overwhelming and interrupt daily life. As someone who might've googled her minor symptoms a little too often in the past, I know the spiral of fear that can attach itself to something as simple as a minor headache.
From there, it can often snowball into a dark rabbit hole of silent diseases or rare deadly conditions. One minute you're searching for 'why does my head hurt?' and before you know it, you're convinced you're the odd one out in the statistical 0.01% and that death is imminent.
Got a good laugh out of that? I can only afford to chuckle now, having finally found some ways to navigate through this maze of health anxiety. So, let's talk about how to separate fact from fear when it comes to health anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Its Magic
Let's take a step into the land of CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy. This type of therapy has proven to be quite effective when dealing with health anxiety. Essentially, it helps you alter the unhelpful ways you think and behave. Seems simple, right? But oh boy, did it unravel the layers of fears I didn't even know gripped me.
CBT helps identify and challenge your worst-case scenarios. I mean, sure, Google might tell you that a possible cause for your headache could be a brain tumor. But how likely is that really, given your age, lifestyle and all? An all-important learning from CBT is accepting uncertainty. No matter how much we Google, we will never have 100% certainty about our health. Fun fact: Did you know that even doctors make diagnoses based on probabilities?
The Role of Doctor's Appointments
And speaking of doctors, how much more peace of mind does a clear health check-up give you, compared to reading symptoms off the internet? Certainly, my anxiety levels drop by a significant notch every time I step out of my physician's office. But here's where the plot twist lies: the answer isn't always to rush in for an appointment at every new symptom.
Rather, it's essential to establish a balanced and regular schedule of health check-ups. The key is regular — not sporadic and not too frequent. Once you get a clean bill of health, trust that report until your next scheduled check-up. This helps to give real, validated facts the upper hand over unfounded fears.
Understanding the Influence of Media and Internet
Next on the list is understanding the impact, good and bad, that media and the internet have on our health-related fears. Who can forget the time when we all learned about the novel coronavirus for the first time? The flood of information, the shift to working from home, the fear of social interactions — our entire life flip-flopped in a matter of weeks.
Yet, on the flip side, media outlets and internet platforms often exaggerate risks in the name of clickbait titles and increased viewership. Just like that time when a popular tabloid misleadingly reported 'coffee causes cancer'. So, keep this in mind when you're flipping through channels or scrolling through your social feed, panic isn't good for anyone, least of all your health.
Mental Activities to Distract and Engage
One of the most foolproof ways to deal with health anxiety is to distract and engage yourself in activities that spark joy and interest. No, I'm not talking about indulging in a Netflix binge-watch (been there, done that)! These should ideally be activities that engage your mind to the point where it's impossible to think about anything else.
Activities like painting, knitting, reading, or even cooking something really complicated from scratch help. Or that pile of clothes that have been waiting to be organised since forever? Perfect opportunity, isn't it? Not only do these tasks help distract your mind, but they also give you a sense of accomplishment, which is a good mood-booster.
Exercise and Outdoor Activities
Ever heard of the saying, 'a healthy mind in a healthy body'? It has stood the test of time for good reason. Regular physical exercise releases the 'feel-good' chemicals in your brain, like endorphins and serotonin.
Whether it's a quick jog, long walks in nature, or yoga, the benefits extend beyond immediate pleasure. You'd have heard this a thousand times, but regular exercise truly is a long-term investment in your mental wellness. Trust me, even if you break into a dance in your living room, it counts!
Meditation and Mindfulness
Finally, let's dive into something that's been a game-changer for me personally — meditation and mindfulness. These seemingly simple practices have colossal benefits when it comes to dealing with health anxiety. Mindfulness, the art of simply staying present — completely aware yet non-reactive to the current moment, feels like an oasis amid the turbulent waters of fear and anxiety.
Practicing meditation, for even just 5 minutes a day, helped me to train my brain to focus on the 'now', reducing anxiety about the future. And once I got the hang of it, over time, it started to spread across my life, subtly dissolving away the fog of health anxiety.
In closing, remember: health anxiety is a real thing. It's something many of us experience in a world flooded with health misinformation and anxiety-inducing conversations. But the tactics I shared aren't just to aid in distraction, they're to help you live a balanced, mentally healthy life, one where facts hold the reigns, not baseless fears.
I hope you found my insights helpful. It's essential to remember that everyone's experience with health anxiety is different and what works for me may not necessarily work for you. Stay curious and explore what strategies help you most. And if you ever feel that your health anxiety is too overwhelming, do not hesitate to seek professional help. We're all in this together!