For many of us, our ultimate aspiration in life is to achieve peace of mind. We want to experience what it’s like to wake up in the morning and not to have a worry in the world.
Unfortunately, the reality is different – particularly when it comes to our health. We worry about it all the time and wonder if it will fail us, just as we’re about to start enjoying our lives.
It turns out that professionals have a name for this type of worry: they call it “health anxiety.” It’s the gnawing sense that no matter what you do, your health is eventually going to let you down.
People panic all the time about their health. They have some symptoms and then they go and ask Dr. Google what they mean. Invariably, Google comes back with some dreadful, catastrophic answer, such as ALS or cancer.
But, in most cases, the reality is far more benign. Sometimes a headache is just a headache.
What Is Health Anxiety?
Before we move onto some of the things that you can do to stop worrying about your health, we should define what health anxiety actually is.
People experience health anxiety in different ways. However, it generally becomes a diagnosable condition when:
- Your fears about your health start affecting your day-to-day life
- You’re continually seeking reassurance from medical professionals
- You pay attention to small sensations, such as tingling and numbness
- You refuse to believe things that medical professionals tell you
- You obsess over blood tests and scans
Some people refer to health anxiety as hypochondria. It’s the idea that you can’t stop thinking about your health and there is nothing you can do to stop it. But, as you’ll discover below, there is.
Challenge Your Worrying Thoughts
If you have health anxiety, it is easy to let your thoughts run away from you uncontrollably. But you don’t have to sit idly by while all the fears play out in your head. Instead, you can use the rational part of your mind to challenge those beliefs.
For instance, let’s say that you are experiencing heart flutters – something that can affect people throughout their lives, even teenagers. People with health anxiety will immediately jump to the conclusion that they have advanced heart disease or a serious heart defect, but how likely is that?
The odds that you actually have a life-threatening heart problem are actually quite low. Heart disease tends to affect people right at the end of their lives (and many of them don’t know they have a problem).
The trick here is to avoid rumination. Instead of allowing your mind to run riot, cut off from intrusive thoughts once you notice them taking over. At the start, you can simply avoid them by distracting yourself with something more pleasant. The more you cut rumination about your health out of your life, the less anxious you will feel.
If you want to learn more about the actual state of your health, you can go for regular checkups. There is actually nothing wrong with getting your hearing tested or going for a physical. In fact, they can be opportunities for health professionals to confirm that you are in good health.
Checkups can be a source of anxiety but, if you are healthy, they can also reassure you. The more positive health checkup outcomes you have, the more confident you will feel going forward.
Health anxiety is a specific form of rumination where your brain becomes hyperactive, fearing the worst. As such, it is highly amenable to meditation.
If you’re new to meditation, you might want to try a guided practice. Here, an instructor will take you through the various mental steps required to get you into a deeper meditative state. For many people, simply being told to relax the body and mind is enough to have a profound impact on how they feel.
Listen To Uplifting Music
For others, music is healing. Listening to it mindfully can help to transition the brain out of rumination mode and into a more relaxed and creative state.
Try listening to relaxing or uplifting music. Focus on the music itself. Don’t deliberately choose music that could reinforce your anxious state.
Change Your Focus
You can also try changing your focus. This isn’t so much about “distracting” yourself. Instead, it is giving your mind something else to do other than worry about your health all the time. You can do simple things like go for a hike, paint something, potter around in the garden or clean your room.