Health Anxiety: How to Stop the Worry Cycle

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Health Anxiety: How to Stop the Worry Cycle
11 October 2023 0 Comments Felicity Wittman

Understanding the Roots of Health Anxiety

I know this may sound funny but, there was a time when I was absolutely convinced that Max, my golden retriever, could detect illness by merely sniffing!!! Now, while it's true that dogs do have an uncanny ability to sense physical discomfort, turning Max into a four-legged health barometer added a new layer of panic to my life. Let me tell you, constant worry about health isn't exactly a walk in the dog park.

Health anxiety, also known as hypochondriasis, isn't your run-of-the-mill pre-annual checkup jitters. It's an overwhelming fear about having a serious illness, despite medical reassurances. It's like having a pesky internal tabloid, constantly churning out baseless, alarming health-related headlines. The root of health anxiety lies not in the physiology, but in our mind, fuelled by our inability to deal with uncertainty, lack of control, experiences, and sometimes, even information overload.

Breaking the Worry Cycle

If you've ever been caught up in a cycle of worry, you know it's a slippery slope. It starts with one worrisome thought and, before you know it, you are deep down the Rabbit Hole with "what ifs." Breaking this cycle is all about developing a new relationship with your thoughts. It's like training Kiwi, my parrot, not to squawk for attention; instead, learning to observe his antics objectively.

Acknowledge the thought, observe it without judgment, and let it pass. Negative thoughts will come and go, just like clouds on a windy day. Remember, thoughts are not facts; they do not control you. Besides, not every ache and ache is a sign of a deadly disease, and not every sniff from Max is a health alert.

Embracing Mindful Wellness

Let me share a secret. The best tool I have found for managing health anxiety is mindfulness. Now, I am not asking you to become a monk and chant mantras all day (although, if that's your thing, go for it!). Mindfulness simply means being present in the moment, focusing on your breath, and paying attention to your senses.

For instance, when walking Max, take the time to feel the breeze on your skin, observe the colour of the sky, listen to the sounds around you, and feel the leash in your hand. This practice can ground you in the present, taking your mind off potential health scares and ushering peace and calm.

Seeking Right Information

The Internet is a blessing, but when it comes to health information, it can often be a curse. Sure you might stumble upon helpful information, but you can also find frightening, misleading, and downright false information that can trigger health anxiety.

Assigning the role of your "health Google" to a trusted health professional could be a great way to quell your anxiety. Ask your doctor or therapist all the questions you have and let them be your source of information. Believe it or not, your keyboard doesn't have an MD.

Creating a Support System

Having friends and family who understand your struggle with health anxiety can make a world of difference. Now, bear in mind, this isn't a free pass to constantly discuss your health fears with them. Instead, they can provide reassurance, distractions and a nudge towards seeking professional help when needed.

Support groups, both online and offline, can also offer immense relief. Hearing others share their experiences and coping strategies can help normalize your feelings, providing you solace in the fact that you're not alone. Kinda like Max and Kiwi, my pets, they might fight over toys, but they always have each other's back.

Professional Help: Therapy and Medication

If health anxiety is significantly impeding your life, seeking professional help can be a game-changer. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment route. It helps in pinpointing and changing thought patterns that lead to anxiety.

Medication may also be an option if your anxiety levels are high. Consult with a health professional about what's best for you. Professionals are trained to help unravel the knots in your mind—just like a good captain steering you through choppy waters.

Focusing on Lifestyle Tweaks

Lifestyle changes can also play a pivotal role in managing health anxiety. Regular physical activity releases feel-good chemicals in your body, helping curb anxiety levels. So whether it's chasing Max around the yard or walking around your neighborhood, get moving!

Diet also plays a crucial role in mental health. A diet rich in fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats can do wonders, not only for your waistline but your mental health as well. Finally, adequate sleep can help keep your anxiety levels in check, like how Kiwi gets cranky if he doesn't get his afternoon nap.

Embracing Acceptance

Lastly, accepting that health anxiety is a part of your life can be liberating. It doesn't mean you're giving up or making peace with anxiety running your life, far from it. Rather, it’s acknowledging that anxiety can creep in but doesn't have to be in control.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey and it's okay to seek help. A little worry serves as a protective mechanism, but too much worry can hinder your life. Maybe we cannot control all the uncertainties in life, but we can certainly control our response. Just like dealing with Kiwi's early morning squawks or Max's endless energy levels, it's all about balance.

Here's to simpler, worry-free days, just hanging out with Max and Kiwi, not sweating about every sniff and squawk as a potential health hazard. Here's to you, taking control and bidding farewell to health anxiety! Cheers!!

Felicity Wittman

Felicity Wittman

An established health and wellness expert, I've dedicated my career to the promotion of healthy lifestyles. As a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, I coach individuals on achieving physical health goals via personalized plans. My passion extends in writing, where I put my knowledge on paper to educate and inspire others towards wellness. Currently, I'm a regular contributor to various health magazines and digital platforms.

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