Health anxiety isn’t a new issue. However, we’ve seen it spike in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It refers to excessively worrying about contracting an illness or disease, and how that might impact your life. 

There’s no question that we’re still living in uncertain times. We might be in a post-pandemic society, but the COVID-19 virus and its variants are still lingering, and the pandemic caused many people to become fearful of other illnesses that might start to spread globally. 

As cold and flu season approaches, your health anxiety might be even more significant. If you deal with that kind of anxiety, it’s tempting to lock yourself away from the world to stay safe or take excessive preventive measures to avoid germs. 

While it’s important to take care of yourself and take certain precautions during cold and flu season, you don’t have to stop living your life because you’re scared of getting sick. Obsessing over it can hinder your quality of life and cause you to become even more fearful. 

So, what can you do to manage your health anxiety this season? 

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

One of the best ways to ease some of your health concerns is to talk to your doctor before cold and flu season officially starts. Doctors, nurses, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and even mental health professionals are all used to hearing about concerns from their patients. They won’t dismiss them or invalidate your feelings. 

Instead, by opening up to your provider about your concerns, they’ll be able to work with you to create a positive plan for the season. That plan should include actions you can take to avoid getting sick, but it also might include anxiety management techniques to stay calm when your fears start to creep in. 

Empathy is extremely important in healthcare, so make sure you’re working with a provider who prioritizes the following: 

  • Communication
  • Cultural competency
  • Respect and kindness

Once you have a plan in place with your provider, make sure to stick with it. When you’re struggling with anxiety, it’s tempting to try home remedies or the latest health trends with the hope that they’ll keep you safer. For example, some people have tried to use Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, but studies haven’t proven it to be effective, and it may end up causing negative side effects, including vision problems

Prioritize Your Health

There’s nothing wrong with keeping your body as healthy as possible. As long as you’re not obsessing over the idea of getting sick, staying healthy can make you feel stronger. Many self-care practices are also good for your mental health, so you can fight back against your anxious thoughts more easily. 

During the fall and winter months, it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise, but it’s one of the best things you can do to improve your mood, reduce stress, and boost your immune system naturally. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to stay active indoors, including: 

  • Joining a gym
  • Practicing yoga
  • Swimming in an indoor pool
  • Riding a stationary/spin bike

You can even take advantage of the great outdoors by going hiking during the fall or trying a winter sport like cross-country skiing. 

In addition to staying active, you can boost your overall well-being by prioritizing self-care every day. Try things like meditation, journaling, staying close to family and friends, and cooking healthy meals. You can even try simply decorating your house with more plants. Improved mental health, immune system, overall productivity, and even relationships are just a few of the health benefits of having more plants in your home. The better you feel, the less overwhelming your health anxiety will be.

Challenge Your Thoughts

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. While it typically doesn’t go away on its own, it’s often easy to manage when you’re willing to challenge it. 

The first step in combatting your health anxiety is to recognize and accept your thoughts. Trying to push them down or “ignore” them will only make them worse and harder to challenge. Many people who deal with anxiety think in worst-case scenarios. If you tend to think about your health in extreme, unrealistic ways, take the time to pause as those thoughts enter your mind.

Ask yourself if the thought is factual before you give in. If you know it’s not, ask yourself how you can redirect your thoughts or change your perspective. It only takes a moment for an anxious thought’s power to weaken. 

Shift your focus away from those negative thoughts by writing in a journal, talking with a friend, or distracting yourself with something you enjoy doing. In just a few minutes, you might find that the fear goes away or isn’t as overwhelming as before. 

It’s okay to want to stay healthy this cold and flu season. However, don’t let health anxiety keep you from enjoying everything life has to offer. Put these ideas into practice to keep yourself safe, healthy, and less stressed as you navigate the colder months ahead.