Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.
Wow has it been quite a year! My kids had their last day of school today, and boy are we all happy to be finished with this COVID-19 school year. We’re all starting summer vacation sick, which got me thinking about health anxiety, and how different things are now versus a couple of years ago surrounding health issues. With all this mask wearing, social distancing and time at home, there has been a very low rate of sickness in our household this year (knock on wood, here!). It’s almost like we forgot how to be “normal” sick with colds and allergies, versus thinking this must be something so much bigger and so much worse. It’s another interesting piece that I think will remain for a while as we’re all trying to get back to some semblance of normalcy (what ever that is, right?)
So, let’s talk about health anxiety and how it might be showing up in your life these days, even as our COVID-19 number are looking better everyday here in the State. Some health anxiety symptoms you may be experiencing could come in the form of:
- Intrusive thoughts about what might happen in the future (What if statements)
- Catastrophizing- making things bigger than they actually are right now (What if this cold is really COVID and I end up in the hospital even after being full vaccinated?)
- Excessive worry about your health and the health of others
- Feelings of panic
- Pounding heart
- Butterflies in your stomach
- Trouble sleeping
Would you add anything to this list? Know that we all deal with anxiety in our own ways, and it tends to show up in our lives in pretty creative ways. You may also still have heightened levels of anxiety surrounding COVID-19, even if you’re fully vaccinated. Also, if you have young kids and don’t yet have the option to vaccinate them yet, this can be a huge stressor in your life right now.
When health anxiety shows up in your life, it may be helpful to prioritize taking care of you. Here are some health anxiety self-care ideas to consider:
- Meditation- quiet or guided- to help you feel centered and grounded right here and now.
- Journaling- to help you process your feelings and emotions and help you focus on gratitude.
- Healthy eating
- Connect with family and friends
- Talk to a therapist
- Hang out with your family pet.
- Come up with a helpful daily mantra- be here now, etc.
- Mindfulness- pay attention to the moment you are currently in. It can be helpful to focus on the five senses: what are you hearing/ smelling/ seeing/ touching/ tasting?
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep– you can use a mindfulness app (such as Relax Melodies) to help you relax before bed.
- Read– fiction if you just need something light and fluffy to get your mind off all the changes. Non-fiction- something deep and heavy if you need to feel a connection to people who have gone though what you are currently experiencing.
- Educate yourself– read books, surf the Internet, watch the news, and talk to others, especially people who have been in your shoes.
What would you add to this list?
Also, remember that grief may be in your life here alongside the anxiety. Grief often shows up when your expectations do not match your reality… sometimes humor shows up here too! Try to make space to embrace all of the feeling and emotions that are present during this time in your life.