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How I Keep Anxiety Low with Chronic Health Conditions

I have up close and personal as well as professional information about anxiety and chronic health conditions. Over the past year, I've been diagnosed with a whopping nine chronic health conditions, many of them autoimmune and most of them digestive in nature. They're all permanent, but I'm grateful that they're all manageable. I'm also happy that I am happy and well. Healthy anxiety is part of this subjective sense of wellness. I'd like to share with you four tips that I use to keep my anxiety low despite these chronic health conditions. 

Keeping My Anxiety Low Has Been a Process 

Given that I was once told by a therapist that I have an anxious personality, I was initially surprised to discover that I haven't experienced heightened anxiety about my health. Upon reflecting, I realized that there are two reasons for this. The first is that my anxiety has always been social and related to performance and perfectionism. Even strong anxiety in one realm of life doesn't mean that anxiety will barge into other areas.

The second is that I practice what I preach. All of the insights and tips about reducing anxiety and/or living with it that I write are things that I use personally and have used professionally when I used to work as a teacher and counselor. So I started this recent health journey with a huge collection of tools and an open perspective. Here are four of the things I do that keep my anxiety low despite now living with nine chronic health conditions.

Doing These Things Keeps My Anxiety in Check Despite Chronic Health Conditions

To be sure, I have more than four things that help me live largely free from health anxiety. Because I'm fairly certain that no one wants to read a 200,000-word tome on the subject, I selected four of my top anxiety-reducing tools to share right now. 

  1. I stay informed. Knowledge really is power, and feeling empowered is the opposite of feeling anxious. I've read numerous books and articles and subscribed to several relevant newsletters. This way, I know what questions to ask my doctors and nutritionist and have my own information to dig deeper when my doctors disagree with each other and put me in the middle of their professional opinions. I can stay calm and operate from an informed perspective rather than from fearful emotions. 
  2. I have a health plan. I have a binder filled with my test results, doctor's notes, my own notes, and more. I use that information to create (and update as needed) a plan of action for my health. My plan includes things like what to eat, how to regain my stamina and energy, and how to manage and reduce stress. It's an evolving go-to resource that makes me feel in control. That said, I also keep anxiety at bay by being flexible with this plan. Treatment plans for mental and physical health can increase anxiety if they feel too rigid, so my plan is a suggested sketch rather than rules carved in stone. 
  3. I have greater wellbeing goals and vision. Making my chronic health conditions the center of my life would cause anxiety and be very restrictive. These challenges don't define me, and I don't want them to limit me. Therefore, I keep my goals and purpose at the forefront. Each day, I sent an intention for what I need to do and how I want to be. I seek balance. I do need to follow my health plan, but I want my life to be full of other people and activities, too. 
  4. I practice mindfulness. Mindful living is the core component of my mental and physical health and wellbeing. This involves living fully in each moment as it comes. Rather than anxiously ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, or being overwhelmed by things like these chronic conditions, I stay grounded in the present moment, focusing on what is before me right now. Of course, we are all human with very active brains, and our thoughts naturally wander and fly away with anxieties. Mindfulness doesn't completely stop that, but it lets me (and you, too) take control by remembering to return your attention to your present moment. Focus on what you see, hear, feel, smell, taste (sometimes), do, and appreciate right now. Mindfulness lets me embrace each moment rather than being anxious about the other things I'm at risk for or what "might" develop in the future. 

These actions truly keep my anxiety low despite living with nine chronic health conditions. What coping skills help you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2020, April 9). How I Keep Anxiety Low with Chronic Health Conditions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, May 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2020/4/how-i-keep-anxiety-low-with-chronic-health-conditions



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She also speaks nationally about mental health. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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