If we’re paying attention, we do the best we can for our health. Especially by paying attention to things like eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, exercising, and being mindful of stress. Having the support of loved ones is essential, as well. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been as easy during the pandemic. Let’s hope that gets better soon.
Even with care on our part, something health-related may come along and throw us for a loop. If you’re dealing with this yourself, I’m sorry. It takes the wind right out of your sails. I know, because I recently had a health scare that came out of the blue.
It’s ironic because I sometimes worry about my health and remember thinking that no matter what I fear specifically, it could be something completely unexpected that gets me instead. With this thought, I was trying to relax my worries because we don’t have control over much of life’s circumstances.
My Health Scare
Of course, that “out of the blue” moment is just what happened to me. I hadn’t visited the dentist in quite a while because of Covid. I take very good care of my teeth so wasn’t worried. After getting the vaccine, I decided it was time for a visit and got a full set of X-rays. Low and behold, the dentist saw something suspicious behind my front teeth, maybe a cyst, and I needed to see the oral surgeon for a biopsy. OH BOY, everything went into slow motion and my mind was a blur.
I was able to see the surgeon right away but it was an excruciating 24 hours. However, I discovered something that helped me cope. It was an app called DARE: Panic and Anxiety Relief, after the book by the name, DARE, The New Way to Stop Anxiety and End Panic Attacks. For health anxiety the app suggested repeating the phrase, “I accept and allow these anxious thoughts and surrender control to my body.”
That’s just what I needed and it helped. Long story short, my health scare turned out to be just a variation of “normal” and I was happily sent on my way with a clean bill of health. I didn’t even consider this outcome because the dentist said they’d need a biopsy but the surgeon said he didn’t. Phew! I dodged a bullet this time.
Sidenote: I also had a wisdom tooth removed, and it was a breeze except for the hematoma (bruise) from the anesthetic.
11 Tips for How to Deal with a Health Crisis
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always turn out positively, and if you’re dealing with a scary diagnosis, here are a few tips to help you through this difficult period.
1. Remember this: your body is amazing.
Your body is built to protect and heal you when it can. Of course, things may happen, but you’re giving your body the best chance to recover if you eat a whole-food, plant-based diet and follow the advice of most health professionals as in the suggestions below. Sure, given the incredible complexity of our biology, statistically, some people will not do as well as others but you’re giving yourself a much better chance with these tips.
2. It’s ok to feel down and sad.
It’s pretty normal to feel down and depressed following a scary diagnosis. Having a good cry can release some of the tension hormones that build up during stress. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed about your feelings because there are quite a few benefits of doing just that as discussed in this article, 8 Benefits of Crying: Why It’s Good to Shed a Few Tears.
3. Resist the urge to look up anything on Google.
You know this is true and I realize it can be hard to resist, but take it from me; looking up anything about your health condition will only make you worry more. You’ll know what’s happening soon enough and you don’t need to put the burden of figuring things out on yourself. Once you know what’s going on with a clear diagnosis, you might want to investigate more, but not before then.
4. Lean on good friends or your spouse.
Your friends and loved ones will want to help any way they can. Be sure to ask for help if you need it and lean on them to take care of tasks you just don’t have the energy for. Having a caring hug or someone to listen to your concerns can help you sort it out. People want to help so give them a chance.
5. Keep eating a healthy plant-based diet.
If you’re familiar with this website you know that eating a whole-food, plant-based diet is one of the best ways to prevent or even reverse certain types of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and more. If you’re new to eating a plant-based diet check out my “Start Here” page and get yourself on board. Make a meal plan for the upcoming week and know that you’re being proactive. If you want to know more about beating a disease, check out this website, eattobeat.org, and the companion book, Eat to Beat Disease. You also might want to check out chrisbeatcancer.com.
Keep in mind that while eating a plant-based diet gives your body a fighting chance, a plant-based diet can’t cure everything. I cover more on this in my response to a reader question, Not Everyone’s Health Recovers on a Plant-Based Diet.
6. Practice meditation and gratitude.
I love the medication app called CALM. Not only does CALM have meditations and peaceful music, but it also has sleep stories to help when you just can get a wink in. It’s also important to remember with gratitude the many blessings we have in our everyday lives. The CALM app has several meditations for gratitude or you can take a few minutes every day to be thankful for the little things in life. The CALM app has a free introductory offer, but otherwise, it does cost. Other meditation apps are free such as Insight Timer.
It doesn’t take much time to fit in meditation every day and studies have shown that doing meditation can shrink a part of your brain called the amygdala which plays the major role in the anxiety response.
7. Get enough sleep.
Not getting enough sleep can contribute to feeling stressed and down. It also leads to overeating. I know it might be hard at this time, but do your best to stick with a sleep routine. Turning off electronics a few hours before bed and winding down with your meditation app really help create relaxation. And, use the following tip to help when you just can’t get to sleep.
8. Take a long bath.
A 20-minute soak in a warm tub with a few magnesium salts (Epsom Salts or Ancient Minerals Magnesium Bath Flakes) can do wonders for your sleep. Magnesium relaxes your muscles and when your body cools down from the warm water, it’s getting ready for sleep. Listen to some relaxing meditative music while you soak. One of my favorites is this one called, Let Go of Fear and it’s free on YouTube.
9. Write Down Your Thoughts.
It may feel like a thousand thoughts are running around in your head right now such as how will this affect your life, how much will it cost, how do I tell my friends, and many more. These thoughts can get all jumbled up and confused unless you write them down. Otherwise, your brain will continue to work on the “problem” and keep you from getting a good night’s sleep or even eating well. Writing down your thoughts gets them out of your head thereby relieving you of the burden of rehashing them over and over. You can write down more thoughts as they occur to you. Keep a notebook by your bed for nighttime worries.
10. Get a few minutes of vitamin D from the sun.
To me, there’s something so healing about the warmth of the sun. As you probably know, it’s a great source of vitamin D as long as you don’t overdo it. It’s also the perfect time to fit in a bit of meditation while you sunbathe for 15 minutes or so. Depending on your latitude, you can get quite a lot of Vitamin D IU’s in just a few minutes, especially in the spring and summer. For example, 10 minutes on a sunny day in Southern California in early April netted 2000 IUs. The free D Minder phone app is a great way to track your vitamin D from the sun. Most people are deficient in Vitamin D but it’s best to get a blood test to determine your current baseline.
11. Stay busy and include some exercise.
Staying busy can help take your mind off worrisome thoughts. Keep busy with the suggestions I’ve laid out in this post such as making a meal plan, shopping for healthy food, meditating, or reading a book on healing. Keep up with your regular routine as much as you can. Include exercise since it helps with depression, boosts your immune system, and enables sleep better.
If you are indeed dealing with a scary diagnosis, I hope these tips will help you cope. My heart goes out to you because I know how difficult it is. Stay strong.
Share with us your ways of coping when you’re under stress in the comments below