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10 Tips for Reducing Health Fears

10 Tips for Reducing Health Fears

In this blog series, I’ve been exploring the relationship between fear, anxiety, and how it leads us to overmedicalize health care.

In Part 1 of this blog series, I discussed The Shocking Dangers of Medical Overdiagnosis & Overtreatment. In Part 2, I shared How To Avoid Medical Overdiagnosis & Overtreatment. In Part 3, I tried to reassure you with the 5 Reasons Not To Be Afraid Because We’ve Never Been Safer. And today, I’ll discuss how to manage fear and anxiety around illness and death, so your fears don’t drive you to put yourself at risk of overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

How Fear & Anxiety Lead To Overmedicalization

28% of Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder, which manifests when a person feels fear without any certain or immediate external threat.  In addition to fearing illness and death, we’re also afraid of public speaking, heights, going out in public, needles, and spiders. In fact, a 1986 study by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that 5%- 12% of people surveyed have experienced phobias in the past six months. There are as many as 530 documented phobias, and studies estimate that 24 million Americans will experience phobias in their lifetimes. Some even suffer from phobophobia, the fear of phobias!

But the irony is that fear and anxiety have been scientifically proven to harm your health, putting you at risk of everything from heart disease to cancer to the common cold.

On top of that, when you’re afraid of getting sick or missing a diagnosis, you’re likely to put yourself at risk of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which as I explored earlier in this blog series, has been documented to lead to health risks. As it turns out, fear and anxiety make you sick, and courage heals. So what can you do to minimize fear and anxiety about illness and embrace courage instead? If you’re suffering from a full blown anxiety disorder or phobia, please seek professional help. But if you, like many of us, just need some tips for navigating the fears that plague all of us, read on.

10 Tips For Reducing Health Fears

1. Understand that fear sells and you’re being manipulated.

Fear sells, and the media knows it. So it’s no surprise that every other headline is warning you about the “Secret Dangers Living In Your Cupboard” or the “Deadly Dangers Of Airplane Travel” or the “Cancer-Causing Toxins In [Pretty Much Everything.]”

As I wrote in this blog post, we’re safer than we’ve ever been. But the advent of cable news as entertainment and internet news at your fingertips has transformed us into a fear-driven society, terrified of things that are relatively low risk.  Realize that the media is trying to make you tune in by making you afraid. Refuse to be part of the game.

2. Assess the real risk.

Yes, there are real health risks out there that can be easily avoided. And why not do what you can to minimize your risks? But when many of the risks point to low risk but high buzz culprits, it’s easy to lose perspective on how great the actual risk is. For example, when swine flu broke out, everyone freaked out. But as I wrote about in 17 Ways To Avoid Swine Flu & Why Not To Freak Out, swine flu was just a flu virus, not Ebola virus. The same mass hysteria followed the Japanese nuclear plant meltdown after the tsunami (I wrote this post in response.)

Rather than getting swept up in irrational fears, educate yourself. Know the real risks, then make decisions accordingly.

3. Shield yourself from the media.

Take a media holiday and just notice what happens to your fear and anxiety levels. Try it. You might be amazed how chillaxed you feel.

4. Meditate.

Fear and anxiety trigger the body’s “fight-or-flight” stress response, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and putting your body at risk for disease. But Harvard professor Herbert Benson, author of the 1970’s bestseller The Relaxation Response, proved that a simple meditation shuts off the stress response and stimulates the relaxation response, allowing the body to not only free itself from fear and anxiety, but to also flip on its natural self-repair mechanisms and heal itself.

5. Tap into your inner knowing.

I call it your Inner Pilot Light – that wise, intuitive, body-centered part of you that will tell you whether you really need to worry – or whether you can trust that you’re safe. If you’re not hearing the voice of your body’s wisdom, sign up here for daily messages from your Inner Pilot Light.

6. Dissociate from your fear.

I call mine the Gremlin. Martha Beck calls hers her “Inner Lizard.” We all have fears, especially when it comes to illness or death. But it’s important to understand that our fears arise in the amygdala of the primal brain. Their job is to protect us, but in modern life, more often than not, these fears damage us more than they protect us. Make friends with your Gremlin. Recognize that it’s not YOU. And when you hear that fear voice prattling on, pat your Gremlin on the head, muster up your courage, and take brave steps to improve your health by aligning your life with your truth – in your relationships, your work, your sex life, your spiritual life, your financial life, your physical health, and all that jazz.

7. Push the limits of your comfort zone.

It’s natural to stay firmly inside your comfort zone. But the more you step outside of it, the more you’ll learn that the areas just outside your comfort zone are probably just as safe. If you usually hand your power over to your doctor during health care visits, try speaking up and asking questions.  If you tend to avoid risk, try something risky (within reason, of course!) Repetitive experiments with testing the waters outside your comfort zone can retrain your amygdala, reduce anxiety and fear, and help you feel brave.

8. Affirm your courage.

Try affirmations like “I am brave.” Or “I value courage.”

9. Surround yourself with courageous people.

If you’re flanked by fear-driven people who project their fears onto you, it’s no wonder you feel anxious or afraid. Try seeking out brave people, like the people who are drawn to the community atOwningPink.com, and see how their energy affects yours.

10. Trust the Universe.

As A Course In Miracles teaches, fear is the opposite of love – and the two can’t coexist. Essentially, by letting fear and anxiety run the show, you’re telling the Universe you don’t trust that whatever happens is in the highest good for all beings. Letting go of fear and anxiety is the ultimate show of faith – that it’s all handled, that the Universe doesn’t need you to micromanage your life, that even if you do get sick, it’s because your soul is here on this earth to learn something, and illness just might be the vehicle for that lesson. Let go of the handle. Surrender. Trust.

What’s A Health Conscious Person To Do?

I’m not suggesting you avoid doctors, ditch preventative medical tests, or decline treatment. But I am suggesting you do what you can to manage fear and anxiety, not only to help your body stay in its natural state of self-repair, but also to avoid putting yourself at risk of overmedicalization.

The way I see it – the best we can do is live healthy lives – not just by eating well, exercising, avoiding bad habits, getting enough sleep, and managing stress, but also by prioritizing healthy relationships,ensuring that we’re aligned with our soul’s work, staying in a positive head and heart space, taking steps to feel spiritually connected, and living an all-around wholly healthy life.

You on board? Tell us what you think.

Trying to live and love fearlessly,

Lissa

Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities - HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

14 comments

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4:43AM PST on Nov 12, 2013

Well, the first time I had a major attack they put me on xanax but it messed with my head really badly and I had memory issues. My discharge papers noted that while medicated by it I had little to no acknowledgement of externally inflicted bodily harm/pain. What I do remember is waking up the next day with a swollen ankle and multiple bruises that hurry like hell from walking into things or just letting the car door close on me.!
Later, someone recommended me this treatment, and I’m very grateful with it, i can go anywhere i want without problem, no anxiety, no panic attacks, i'm a new person. Read this article, it helped me a lot : panicsolutionkey.com

12:29PM PDT on Aug 10, 2013

Sadly humans like to play on fears. I have no fear of death, it comes natural to all living things. I fear for my partner I leave behind when I die. She feels the same as I do, their is no life without the other.

12:16PM PDT on Aug 10, 2013

Thank you for posting these practical and helpful anxiety tips. I struggled with anxiety for many years and I have successfully utilized most of these tips. I especially enjoyed the imagery of that Harvard Professor whacking the reptile over the head. Im likes this site and some similar tips here: http://anxietyhealthguide.com Funny stuff!

1:31PM PST on Nov 13, 2012

Bonjour,

Thank you for this article.

You are right, fear is used to sell and to create anxiety about future.

I have red a document about lobbies and pharma industry. There is more persons doing lobbies that persons trying to find the real data about medical drugs. Those persons write articles using Internet to promote the drug sold by the company thery are working for.
They are doing some sort of interview in medical magazine, but this is hidden advertising.
And this is like an advertising war - which company will get the market and will sell its drugs more and more.
Side effects are no mention or reduce.
And this is mainly in psychotropic drugs.
Life is really more stronger then illnesses. But this is the job of many people to make you believe that this is the contrary.
If you would like to control a society, give this society bad news about anything.
No future, no goals to reach, no hope, economic problem and no solutions to live a better life...
This is the way to "enslave" people. People will be anxious about anything, and particularly about there life and there family.
Follow you own advice and really try to find what is real for you using your observation.

9:41PM PDT on Nov 2, 2012

Its all about balance.

6:33PM PDT on Nov 1, 2012

A good list! unfortunately I find many Care2 fall into the first category. Too much fear about things in the environment etc. Everything in moderation!

4:05PM PDT on Nov 1, 2012

Just having a Care2 article that lists ten of anything all on one page makes me feel better!

2:33PM PDT on Nov 1, 2012

My fears are a lot lower than they were several years ago. For this I thank the many who prayed with and for me and good Drs. who helped. There is one fear I will probably take to my grave but even it is better to deal with. Drs. said your worst fear will never happen, it did but I made it through.

2:08PM PDT on Nov 1, 2012

Thank you

1:22PM PDT on Nov 1, 2012

thanks

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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