If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from health anxiety, you know how difficult it can be to manage day-to-day life. Health anxiety can cause intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, and extreme fear and worry about your health. In this article, we'll take a look at what health anxiety is, and discuss the ways you can overcome health anxiety.
Since the pandemic, many people worry that every normal bodily sensation has the chance of turning into something more dangerous. Health anxiety manifests in a variety of ways as it's the misinterpretation of normal, physical sensations. With this in mind, it's important to have coping mechanisms or a plan regarding how to combat the symptoms and overcome health anxiety.
What is Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety is a type of anxiety that is characterized by excessive worry about one's health. Individuals with health anxiety may fixate on their physical symptoms or believe that they have a serious illness, even in the absence of any medical evidence. This can lead to significant distress and disruption in daily life.
This condition is relatively common, affecting about 5% of people. However, some doctors believe people underreport health anxiety, so the percentage could be even higher.
How To Overcome Health Anxiety
1. Control the Controllable
Health anxiety can cause you to fear a lot of the world around you. The concern of outside factors impacting your life and health can keep you from living life to the fullest. Ultimately, the key to curbing your anxieties is to focus on the things you can actually control.
For example, if you know that looking at the latest health information on news sites or going down the rabbit hole of political conspiracy videos on TikTok can increase your anxieties, find ways to limit your screen time.
2. Limit Your Screen Time
Have you ever Googled your symptoms only to find a list of serious or terminal potential causes?
Not only is this detrimental to your health anxiety, but it's very unrealistic or over-exaggerated in most cases. Especially in today's society, we make a lot of comparisons to what we see online and on social media, which can trigger both insecurities and anxiety symptoms.
Set some limits to certain triggering apps on your phone to help you be more cognizant of the time you're spending online. Those preset limits will alert you when you're about to reach your daily max and allow you to reach your daily max and allow you to ground yourself and close out the app.
3. Set Daily Rituals to Reduce Health Anxiety
Aside from setting limitations to the amount of time you spend online, you should also focus on other daily health rituals that support your well-being and specifically, your health.
Research shows that rituals have proven to be an effective way to alleviate feelings of anxiety, and improve performance, and even your level of confidence.
This is why controlling the controllable is a must when it comes to dealing with health anxiety. For some, this may be something as small as cleaning and putting in your contacts at the same time every morning. For others, this may mean they introduce something newly beneficial into your routine to help decrease feelings of panic.
A great starting point could be incorporating essential oils that help with anxiety into your routine. Certain oils and mixtures can help keep you calm and relaxed when you're in a state of panic. Lavender, bergamot, and frankincense are just a few examples of natural remedies that many people find incredibly healing.
Figure out what works best for you and apply it to your daily life. In doing so, you'll be able to find comfort in the controllable, and concentrate more on what's in front of you that the anxious thoughts overcoming your mind.
4. Utilize Therapy
Therapy is an excellent option to consider when learning to deal with health anxiety. Spending some time with a therapist on a regimented schedule can help to uncover the root of your anxiety. Knowing where it's coming from and why can make a huge impact on how to treat it.
It's easy to avoid therapy and put it on the back burner, but nowadays finding a therapist is simple and painless. Online therapy is getting more and more common, making it easier to schedule appointments or even seamlessly switch therapists if you're looking for a better fit. Instead of commuting to the appointment, all you have to do is hop on your device to receive quality care.
5. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
It's not uncommon for a therapist to recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a treatment for health anxiety. CBT is a treatment that involves learning to change thinking patterns as well as behavioral patterns. In doing so, you can learn to recognize distortions in the way you think and identify ways to cope with difficult situations.
You may also try to face your fears instead of avoiding them. In reference to the earlier example of an increased heart rate, a therapist might recommend slowly working your way up from a casual walk to a long-distance run until you feel comfortable with the physical occurrences.
6. Change Your Focus
Being prepared for unwanted health anxiety and going to therapy are great ways to deal with the problem at hand. However, while you're experiencing these feelings, it can be very difficult to cope and find your way back to calm. Nothing compares to the feeling of worry about physical symptoms and that worry can grow into something more until you're spiraling out of control with worrisome thoughts and panic.
Once a trigger engages the body you may enter a fight or flight mode as your brain and body prepare for a non-existent threat. Utilizing grounding techniques in such instances is a great way to restore calmness and relax your body and your mind.
7. Practice Grounding to Overcome Anxiety Symptoms
One practice that is healing to your physical, mental, and emotional state is earth grounding. If you haven’t heard of earthing before, it might sound silly. But I can assure you it is actually very therapeutic and something you can do anywhere, anytime – indoors or outdoors
Grounding is the process of bringing your focus back to the present moment. There are numerous techniques for doing this. One way is to get in touch with your senses. Try and focus on the space around you and find something you can hear, smell, taste, touch, or see.
Another option is to make a list in your head of the things you're grateful for. You might even turn on music, a movie you love, or a light-hearted show to ease your mind. Different grounding techniques work better than others, depending on the individual. Whether you're grounded by deep breaths or stomping your feet, in moments of peak anxious feelings, changing your focus is very beneficial.
Overcoming Health Anxiety
It's important to note that if you're suffering from health anxiety, you're not alone. Give yourself grace and patience, especially with all that has affected us in the past couple of years. Know there are ways to cope and deal with the feelings you're experiencing, and with a little hard work, you might find that you've overcome your anxieties surrounding your health.