What an unpleasant thing to live with, health anxiety. What’s even more troubling is the fact that traditional treatments for health anxiety simply don’t work very well. I remember going to doctor after doctor, emergency room after emergency room due to my symptoms of anxiety and the intense fear that a real physical problem was present. I was given a clean bill of health over and over again and was told that my problems were mental, but no ‘professional’ got to the root of the problem. The root of the problem of health anxiety is adrenaline. It’s a simple formula: intense worrying + a mind and body that won’t relax = an increased cycle of adrenaline which leads to health anxiety.
During my six years of health anxiety, I didn’t relax even for a second. In fact, I forgot what feeling at peace and having a calm body and mind felt like after a while. I would often begin by focusing my worrying on something which would cause my adrenaline-fueled ‘fight or flight’ response to kick in. This adrenaline response always had a series of physical symptoms: pounding heart, shortness of breath, tingling in my hands and feet, and dizziness. I would instantly worry that these physical symptoms were indicating a heart attack or a stroke. Even though this always happened in the same way, I would convince myself that I was going to die as a result of these feelings, and would race to the nearest medical centre or emergency room. It was taking over my life and ruining my career and my relationships. I had to do something to change this course in my life. I did a lot of research on adrenaline; I finally was able to take this problem in hand and came up with a solution to stop this crippling cycle.
The key to stopping the adrenaline cycle that is causing your health anxiety is taking ‘mini vacations’ throughout the day. Here’s what I did: I began with 3 ‘mini vacations’ per day (planning is key) – one in the am just before breakfast, one at lunch and one just before going to sleep at night. I realized that this was the ‘me time’ I needed, far away from anything that needed to be done, whether that was with work, tennis training, relationships or whatever. I took the 10 minutes of freedom that I gave myself and used it to do progressive muscle relaxation, acupressure, squeezing a stress ball, sitting and listening to classical music etc. The key for me was variety during my ‘mini vacations’ from the adrenaline cycle that affected my health anxiety. As soon as I felt the worrying or physical sensations coming on, I would find a quiet place and take this time away for myself.
The more I took my ‘mini vacations,’ the better my health anxiety got. But as mentioned earlier, planning is key. Why? Because people who suffer from generalized anxiety and, more specifically, health anxiety can become quite impatient and require quick results before saying that something just doesn’t work. They become so fed up with their condition and just want to move on with what’s important in their lives. Can you blame a health anxiety sufferer for wanting results now? So, plan out what you will be doing during your time with your mini vacations during the day, look at it as a long term ‘plan,’ and watch your levels of adrenaline that fuel your health anxiety lessen as time goes by.