QUESTION

So I reckon I have health anxiety and I have all the symptoms and all I do is worry about if there’s something’s wrong with me.

I’m going to the doctors later on about it. So this “Health anxiety” makes me want to cry.

Is this normal for any type of anxiety?

ANSWER

Thanks for your question!

Listen… I’ve over come massive anxiety and panic in my life so I definitely can relate to this!

Yes… having an “overall” high level of anxiety will often fool us into focusing on our health instead of the REAL issues.  Just like when we have a headache we become focused on getting rid of the pain instead of solving the cause.

But here’s my two cents… I doubt that you have “health anxiety” (or more commonly called “hypochondria”) so I don’t think there’s really any need to be so specific with how we label your pain.

You probably just have regular old anxiety and you’re just currently focusing on your health as a way to resolve this horrible way you feel.

Here’s my thoughts….

1) The strange ways you’re feeling are NOT symptoms of some disease. They’re just “sensations” which are a natural byproduct of over all anxiety. No person has ever died from sensations. I say this to help you feel some relief and safety.

2) Always touch base with a doctor to rule out any hidden issues. Sometimes our hormones are actually out of wack and it shows up as anxiousness. The key here is to cover your bases AND to realize that these anxious sensations seem biologically based but are instead just byproducts of high levels of bodily stress. If you’re keeping parts of your body really tight all day, without realizing it, you’re going to FEEL sore and uneasy naturally. It’s not a sign of disease, it’s just a sign of fatigue.

3) The feelings of anxiety are EXACTLY the same as the feelings of excitement. It’s how we internalize and LABLE those feelings that either lets them fade (“I’m so excited!” followed be relaxation) or reinforces them “(“Somethings wrong with me, I must pay close attention to these feelings!” followed by further feelings of heightened awareness and adrenaline, causing us exhaustion and continued physical sensations.)

4) What you’re THINKING is the cause and the cure of almost ALL anxiety. That’s why so many gurus focus on teaching people how to be “present” because it helps us get out of our heads and into the moment, even if the moment feels bad… because being present and aware of NOW alleviates mental thoughts that might otherwise worsen how we feel.

Proof that our mental focus directly impacts how we feel can be seen in this study on PTSD… giving someone the video game TETRIS to play after some traumatic incident greatly reduces their future likelihood of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Why?

Because our memories are malleable. How we FEEL can be directed by what we focus on, and the meaning we attach to it. Puzzle solving a video game brings our focus into the present moment. Obviously right after something traumatic we would be flooded with stress hormones, so what ever we’re thinking about in that emotional state will become painted with this same brush.

So instead of sitting around feeling horrible, and therefore creating horrible memories for our future self to deal with, we could instead play a video game that keeps our mind distracted and focused while our emotions and body recover.

Anxiety comes from thinking about the FUTURE, while depression comes from thinking about the PAST. Thinking about he NOW, with appreciation and compassion, helps alleviate both.

5) Anxiety is a type of friction we create within ourselves expressed through sensations in our physical body. Mostly we either “think” something is going to happen that we’re unprepared for (and therefore we’re in danger) or we’re trying to resist something we have no control over (the weather, other drivers, aging, dying, how others think about us, etc.) .

The “fix” is to stop the resistance and friction and instead accept reality, and prepare by always doing our best.

I think in your case you can probably stop trying to blame your health for how you’re feeling and instead take some action on the other stresses in your life that you might be creatively ignoring.

How do you stop yourself from over thinking?

PONDER, PREPARE and PRACTICE

The brain naturally likes to focus on anything we consider a future danger. The key to resolve this unsettled feeling is to purposely take time to REALLY dig into it, write down anything important, and take specific steps to over come/prepare for the unknown future. Then it’s WAY easier to give ourselves the freedom to “let go” of those things when we catch ourselves mentally masterbating over the same thoughts again and again.

So first… PONDER.

Put some time aside to write down all the things going on in your life that you feel unprepared for. I mean everything that worries you.  Just writing things down will have an amazing impact on your brain’s work load. It’s easier to let something go when we know it’s written down. Like writing down a grocery list – it takes pressure off the unconscious mind that would otherwise be trying to remember things.

And then figure out which items you have control over, like an up coming test, or a family trip, or some life goals. Flag those items.

And then cross out the items you can’t control, like the weather, or how others think about you, or even some trauma from your past. Cross these items out as a way to accept and let go of theses things, because what we can’t control we should accept.

This in itself will be a huge burden off your shoulders, trust me.

Next it’s time to PREPARE… list action steps that you should take that will either prepare you for some worst case scenario, or move you towards some goal you desire.

For example, if you have some upcoming test then a SPECIFIC action step might be to write down on a calendar all the times you’ll put aside to focus on studying. Once it’s written down you are WAY more likely to do it, according to this article.

Or if you’re tired of being so stressed about money perhaps you can make a bold outline for how you might purposely make more money, like starting an online business, or an extra part-time job, or selling stuff on kijiji you no longer need. Or maybe you can take ten minutes to write out your budget as a way of becoming more familiar with your spending. Which is another great stress release. Because we can’t manage what we don’t measure.

Writing specific action steps down relieves the brain of extra pressure and also gives you a forward momentum that adds to your confidence and certainty. And certainty equals peace of mind.

Our anxiety feeds off of our inaction and breeds our poor reactions.

Confidence and certainty and excitement comes from being PRO-ACTIVE and moving forward with purpose. Purpose breeds happiness.

And finally PRACTICE catching yourself thinking about things you’ve already PONDERED and PREPARED for.

For example, when I was getting over a past girlfriend I would catch myself constantly pondering what I should have done differently, which is pretty normal, but it was slowly eating up all of my time and causing me way too much anxiety. So I sat down and allowed myself one evening to ponder all the things I might want to ponder.

A free for all!

And then I agreed with myself to let her go and to stop wasting the resources on a failed relationship so that I could move forward on more rewarding things.

I addressed what needed to be addressed, and then I let them go.

Final Thoughts

We teach ourselves what’s important by CHOOSING what to give our attention to. It’s EASY to be lead around by our nose towards what ever is most emotionally compelling and distracting. It’s EASY to let ourselves get overwhelmed with our lives by avoiding taking action and chasing distractions.

Worry builds into a physical state of constant vigilance. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that there’s something physically wrong with us… but almost certainly there isn’t. It’s just our sore body dealing with too many tight muscles and constant adrenaline.

Our adrenal system can only take so much abuse and spending our waking hours constantly in a state of stress is going to see cause side effects in our bodies.

So address the rest of the stress in your life, purposely and with patience and a little more personal compassion, and I promise that these physical sensations will quickly fade away!

I hope this helps,

~ Robby

 

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