Health Anxiety and Solutions

It’s always important to take care of oneself using all the principles of good health. Regular check-ups, proper nutrition and healthful living all enable one to keep on top of their health in a careful yet reasonable way. Often one becomes overly concerned with health issues and caught up in a cycle of health worries. One health issue is reconciled when another immediately pops up to take its place. These worries become all encompassing and exhausting after a while.

Eventually, the individual realizes that this cycle of health anxieties has intruded upon the quality of their life. A dark cloud, always hovering over daily living, this intrusive form of anxiety has to be addressed. One begins by determining why this is occurring, what purpose does it serve and how to interrupt this behavior.

Reason for Health Anxiety

Health worries actually serve a purpose and this purpose is not difficult to detect if one looks deep enough into this pattern of behavior. Often this pattern involves the brain distracting from specific emotions which the individual finds difficult to address.

Many emotions are so overwhelming, such as anger, grief or fear, that the brain looks for ways to distract. Health worries fit the bill because when one worries intensely about their health, there is little room to address an upsetting emotion.

Health worries blanket every other thought and this WORKS. This is the perfect distraction from unsettling emotions. When one worry is reconciled, another takes it place to veil the unaddressed emotion. Each health worry has a strong purpose, as it masks the true upsetting emotion, which is much more difficult to face in the long run.

Solution

– Recognition and acknowledgment of the Health Anxiety habit, one worry quickly following another in a noticeable loop that never ends. Awareness of this cycle is always the first step to reconciliation of the issue.

– Determining if this health worry is a true physical problem by visiting one’s primary physician and ruling out a definite physical cause for the difficulty. Always rule out a physical cause before assuming it is merely health anxiety.

– Noticing that these health worries settle down when you become intensely interested in another topic or swept into a new relationship, job or cause.

– Identify your patterns. Do you experience twinges of symptoms that often jump from one area of the body to another? Do you find yourself overestimating physical intrusions and instantly jump to the conclusion that they signify danger or warrant the attention of an alert?

– Find interests that involve your entire being. Lose yourself in things that allow you little time for inward thinking. True illness does not surface through boredom as do these behaviors. True health problems do not generally follow the same time table as health anxieties do. Health worries are stronger during times of boredom and when one lacks interests. An intelligent mind requires challenges and goals.

– Activity is an important therapeutic tool against health worries. Exercise and movement invigorate and stimulate the mind and body in a positive way. Endorphins are released and Serotonin levels are boosted naturally when activity is a part of a daily routine. Moderate walking, jogging, tennis, swimming and dancing are all helpful activities that bring forth positive results.

– Nutrition is also essential to good health which in itself helps eliminate the strong habit of negative thinking, often concerning health worries. When eating properly, Serotonin levels are naturally boosted and blood sugar levels remain stable. This helps settle down an over-reactive mind, leading to a lessening in health anxieties.

Health and Your Inner Teacher

When you travel the halls of your memory, who do you remember as your most influential teachers? How did these teachers influence your life and change it for the better? Great teachers spark more than math, literature, or science in your life. They spark something else as well, something deeper and long-lasting that stays with you. As an individual living your life, you have another teacher you may not have touched on in your memory. That teacher is you! When you’re trying to get healthy and support your body and mind better, your inner teacher is key toward achieving what you want.

Health involves learning. You learn about your body and which lifestyle habits foster balanced health, versus which habits derail health. But you also learn something else. You learn about yourself as a person, how you face challenges, and which obstacles are blocking your road to health. The journey toward health involves more than regimens for diet, exercise, and sleep. The journey is unique to who you are and where you’re at in life too.

Bringing out your inner teacher to learn about your health isn’t always easy. Everyone wants to believe they are perfectly healthy, and sometimes facing the reality that your health needs more support can be challenging. It means admitting that you’re not perfect and that you still have more to learn. It takes knowing that supplements, medications, or doctor’s visits alone can’t keep you healthy. You as a person are an essential part of your health, and acknowledging this fact takes honesty and courage.

When you call forth your inner teacher in an open and honest way, you can explore your physical and mental-emotional health through a unique lens. You can ask yourself if there are societal and personal expectations that are burdening you and blocking your health. You can explore whether some part of your past unfairly has a hold on your health and who you are today. You can explore your relationships with yourself and other people to see whether they are supporting or hindering health. You can also notice how you manage stress and emotions and whether your current approach could use some adjustment for better health.

Good teachers both challenge you out of your comfort zone and patiently support you through the discomfort that can result. Getting healthier can feel strange and uncomfortable at times. The body and mind are used to doing what they always do—in other words, homeostasis or equilibrium. They will maintain states of health, but they also maintain states of unbalanced health. To get healthy, your inner teacher has to push you beyond comfortably unhealthy habits. On the other hand, your inner teacher also has to patiently help you through these potentially awkward transition periods and regularly remind you: “I can do this!”

What steps have you taken lately to bring out your inner teacher on the road to better health? If you feel that it’s been a while since you’ve listened to your inner teacher, that’s okay. He or she is always there and you can turn to that side of yourself when your health feels neglected or stuck. Remember to give your inner teacher the same respect that you would any other great teacher in your life.

As you head into the autumn season, a period of time that is infused with transition in the air around you, encourage your inner teacher by asking yourself the following questions:

1) What are current strengths in my health?

2) What are some weaker points of my health that require more attention and learning?

3) Without focusing too much on the past or the future, what steps can I take today toward better health?

4) What are my obstacles to health in the present moment?

5) How can I create space in my life for my inner teacher to express itself and help me with health?

As you ask yourself these questions, you’ll find that your body and mind naturally know which direction to go in—if you listen to them. By paying attention to your inner teacher, you’ll learn new things about your health and how better to support it. And you’ll enter your own hall of fame of great teachers.

Importance of Health and Media Literacy

Although research suggests that children’s eating habits are formed even before they enter the classroom – children as young as two may already have dietary preferences based on their parents’ food choices – health education can play a vital role in helping establish lifelong healthy patterns early.

Research shows that health education has a positive impact on health behaviors as well as academic achievement, and that the most effective means of improving health literacy is ensuring that health education is included in curriculum at all levels of education.

U.S. schools educate 54 million students daily, and can provide not only an outlet to promote healthy behaviors for children and adolescents, but a place for them to engage in these behaviors, including eating healthy and participating in physical activity.

The U.S. is in great need of an improvement in health literacy. In a 2007 UNICEF study, our country ranked last out of 21 industrialized countries in overall child health and safety. Approximately one in five of our high school students are smokers, 80 percent of students do not eat the recommended five servings of vegetables and fruits per day, and more than 830,000 adolescents become pregnant each year. Approximately two thirds of the American population is estimated to be overweight or obese.

Furthermore, our understandings of health and health-related behaviors are often highly influenced by the media and media images – which can lead to inaccurate assumptions and negative health behaviors and attitudes.

The importance of media literacy as applies to health education

Self-esteem patterns also develop in early childhood, although they fluctuate as kids gain new experiences and perceptions. Because media messages can influence unhealthy behaviors, especially in adolescents, a comprehensive health education program must include not only health knowledge, but media literacy as it relates to psychological and physical health behaviors as well.

“To a large degree, our images of how to be comes from the media. They are [a] crucial shaper of the young lives we are striving to direct,” writes resource teacher Neil Andersen, editor of Mediacy, the Association for Media Literacy newsletter.

Media awareness, Andersen explains, can help teach students techniques to counter marketing programs that prey on their insecurities to promote negative behavior, can explode stereotypes and misconceptions, can facilitate positive attitudes and can help students learn how to absorb and question media-conveyed information.

Because our perceptions of ourselves and others develop early, and because we live in such a media-inundated world, it is important that we address the conflicts inherent in media values versus our own values with our children and adolescents first, in a factual, positive, and coherent way.

A comprehensive (age-appropriate) health program would therefore teach about these various issues at different stages of development. Pre-adolescence and adolescence are especially pertinent stages in an individual’s growth for discovering themselves and their place in the world, and it is during this vital time that media literacy is absolutely key to an influential and positive health program. Issues must be addressed that affect positive health behavior and attitudes, especially in teen girls, including:

• Digital manipulation of the body in advertisement – Almost all of what we see in media has been altered or digitally manipulated to some extent.

• Objectification of the body in media – Since the 1960s, sexualized images of men in the media have increased 55 percent, while sexualized images of women increased 89 percent, according to a University of Buffalo study. There are also 10 times more hypersexualized images of women than men and 11 times more non-sexualized images of men than of women.