Everyone experiences anxiety in some form or another. Anxiety can be recognized as a sense of tension, unease or feelings of dread or worry. While certain forms of anxiety are more generalized — like those who suffer from anxiety disorders — other types of anxiety can come as a result of more specific challenges, such as social anxiety or health anxiety. Even among those dealing with health anxiety, there are a variety of causes and levels of severity that make everyone unique. No matter what the cause of your health anxiety is, there are ways to manage it productively.
Anxiety itself can have adverse effects not just on your mental health, but on your physical health, too. Anxiety can cause stress, tension and even inflammation, and that’s the last thing you need when you’re worried about your health. Whether you’re experiencing anxiety about public health issues, your own personal health or a combination of the two, there are ways to manage health anxiety so you can feel better both in your body and your mind.
1. Stay Off Google
If you’re on Google because it brought you here, good. You’re in the right place. But as for looking up every sign and symptom every second of the day, it isn’t going to do you any good. In fact, looking up what you think your ailments might be will likely lead you to catastrophizing and misinformation. You aren’t a doctor, and while we may all like to think that we can diagnose ourselves and get to the bottom of our symptoms on our own, it takes a trained medical professional to give you a proper diagnosis. If you think something may really be wrong, go to the doctor and have it checked out. Especially if you think it’s something serious — you’ll need a prescription to treat it anyway.
2. Find Medical Professionals You Truly Trust
Whether you’re in the process of getting a diagnosis or you simply have a difficult time finding medical professionals that make you feel comfortable, finding doctors, dentists and specialists that make you feel comfortable and supported can make your experience with the entire medical system much more positive. Whether you have anxiety specifically centered around going to the doctor or dentist, or you have anxiety about general health concerns, you need someone who will listen to you and communicate with you in a way that makes you feel safe and heard.
3. Use Relaxation Techniques
When it comes to relaxing any kind of anxiety, the classic relaxation techniques are there for a reason. While different techniques will work for different people and situations, using mindfulness, meditation, grounding and deep breathing exercises can bring you back to center and calm your nerves, even just for a little while. Breathing exercises like elongating your exhale and taking deep belly breaths are great choices because they’re easy to memorize. Plus, using mindfulness is a great choice for those moments when you’re feeling anxious without much external stimuli like a doctor’s visit or active symptoms on your mind. Therefore, you can focus on what’s going on around you and in your body rather than your anxieties.
4. Acknowledge Your Feelings And Listen To Your Body
While pre-diagnosing yourself and worrying about every small symptom and detail may not be the most productive course of action, it is important to actually acknowledge how you feel and listen to your body in the moment — both on a physical and psychological level. This can both help you communicate to doctors and medical professionals better and help you feel a bit more secure in your observations.
5. Try To Focus On Other Things
While ignoring issues and distracting yourself isn’t always a good solution to every problem, it can be a great solution for in-the-moment anxiety. You deserve to live a normal life and not have health anxiety dominate your thoughts. Even if you divert your focus for a little while using a movie, a game or good company, moving your focus away from the anxiety and onto things you enjoy can at least help you feel a bit better.
6. Keep Your Mental Health In Check
Of course, seeing a medical doctor will always be an important part of diagnosing your issues if you feel physical health ailments, but if you notice a pattern of anxiety — or if a persistent health issue is taking a toll on your mental health in the long term — it may be beneficial to turn some more focus inward. If you don’t already have a therapist, you may want to look into finding one. Remember, mental health is one of the most important parts of overall health.
Managing Your Health Anxiety
Anxiety isn’t a pleasant experience, but you also aren’t alone if you’re having anxiety. Health anxiety can come in so many forms, but you can find ways to manage it however works best for you. Whether you use breathing exercises or seek out a therapist who can help, you can find your calm.