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Do you have health anxiety or know someone who does? Perhaps you feel you have an element of it, I think most people do. I know that since the pandemic my health anxiety is a lot higher so I wanted to share that with you along with some tips that may help.
What is health anxiety?
According to the NHS health anxiety is when you spend a lot of time worrying about being ill or spending excess time checking your body for signs of illness.
Health anxiety can also stop people from participating in activities that could make them ill and avoid things like heights, enclosed spaces or physical activities due to a perceived risk of injury.
The anxiety can itself cause symptoms such as headache, racing heartbeat or pains which then exacerbates these feelings as you feel this is evidence you are actually ill. Around 14% of the population experiences an anxiety related condition every year.
What are my experiences of health anxiety?
I don’t think I am unusual when I say that I worry about getting ill and ending up seriously ill in hospital. This, however, does not impact my life drastically and certainly not every day. As such I wouldn’t say I have health anxiety any more than the average person. I may be wrong however, I guess I am not a doctor or psychologist.
My asthma is very temperamental and when it is bad I often worry that I will end up severely ill with it in hospital. This worry isn’t completely unfounded though as I have been in the hospital a number of times with my asthma. I panic that I will need an oxygen concentrator for home oxygen or be stopped from doing everyday activities.
Another difficulty I have had is anxiety regarding menopause and my reproductive system in general. I have had a number of issues with not having periods and then last summer I found I may have cervical cancer which was a scary time however with treatment all is ok now
Whilst this has improved with the treatment I still worry massively about these things but have found that reading as much as I can about it and also menopause (I am 41 so it is only a matter of time!) helps me to put my fears into perspective. I bought the below book Menopause Help which is amazing and if you are a similar age to me I would definitely recommend it!
5 strategies to help you with health anxiety
If you are struggling with worrying about your health then here are 5 tips that I think might help you.
Try to relax with deep breathing
One of the most effective ways to cope with anxiety is deep breathing. Deep breaths get much-needed oxygen to your brain and throughout your body, relaxing your muscles. The increased air to your body and mind helps you calm down in times when you would normally become stressed out.
Move outside your comfort zone
If you’re in the habit of shying away from things that stress you out for fear of them making you ill or injuring you, purposefully put yourself into situations that you aren’t sure about. This will help you build confidence. The more steps you take outside of your comfort zone, the better equipped you’ll be when the real challenges of life cause you to feel anxious.
An often-overlooked way to beat anxiety is to make sure that your body is properly fueled for the challenges it must face. Drink plenty of water. Eat a balanced breakfast. Eat small meals, and eat more often. Keep track of what you’re eating in your daily diary so that you can begin to notice patterns that sabotage your health.
Seek help from friends and family
Talking to friends and family and asking for their help can be a hard step but it could make a massive difference. By asking them to help you with distractions when you are worried about your health you can easily find this happens gradually less often.
Your body is made to move, try to remember this and instead of worrying about every feeling or pain embrace it. If you sit at a desk all day, you’ll likely face greater challenges with worry and stress than someone who’s always on the move. Exercise provides tremendous stress relief, an outlet for frustration and a boost to your overall self-confidence. All of these contribute to a peaceful feeling and less anxiety on a daily basis.
Do you have any health anxiety? Have my experiences helped you to see that a certain level of health anxiety is perfectly normal? I hope these tips help you from stopping health anxiety from overcoming you. Do let me know in the comments below.
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