May 3, 2021

Health anxiety…

By Oliver Armstrong

Blood tests, CT scans, weekly doctors visits, believing you’re having a heart attack, have cancer, that you’re having a stroke, or are dying…

If any of these are familiar to you, you’re not alone with this - I had many of these health anxieties and so too do thousands of other people worldwide, it’s extremely common!

But why?

As you may know anxiety is basically your brain stuck in survival mode (fight flight freeze response) and initially it perceives most threats anywhere externally throughout your daily life - at work with specific people or tasks. In relationships, going to the shops, driving, asking a stranger a question - the perceived ‘threats’ are limitless and variable.

However, it gets to a point after having been anxious for some time, where those “threats“ can get directed internally and your brain starts perceiving slight aches, itches, cuts, dizziness, stomach aches, increased heart rate (especially) - or really any internal feeling or experience - as threats to life.

This ‘adds fuel to the fire’ and causes more anxiety - which leads to an oversensitivity of the brain to detect “threats”, which in turn leads to more anxiety… more threat detection… more anxiety…and the loop continues.

So how do you break the loop?

Essentially what you want to do is get your mind away from the internal and out to the external - Basically focus on anything else other than that perceived internal threat.

There are many ways to do this, but one I find effective is to control your breathing by taking steady, slow breaths in and breathing out for about double the length of time... and as you do, focus on the out breath (exhalation) and imagine it has a calm colour - keep repeating this for 30 seconds to 1 minute (or longer).

This not only ties up your conscious awareness to stop the focus on the bad internal experience. But it also gets the same parts of the brain which are activating the anxiety to switch to focusing on calmness through imagination. It also physiologically forces the body to calm down through the longer exhalations.

By the way this technique doesn’t just apply to health related anxieties, it also works wonderfully for any anxiety, fears, or panic attacks.

Give it a try and feel free to let me know how it goes for you…

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