I’d like to share some of my takeaways from my medical appointment yesterday, which I had been dreading for quite a long time
- Although far easier said than done, always try not to catastrophize and work yourself into an anxious wreck for something several weeks or months away. It’s wasted energy and detracts from your quality of life and your ability to experience your here and now.
- Try to understand the reasons for your anxiety. What, specifically, are you concerned about in terms of the thing you’re fearing? Certain aspects? Risks? Then, try to communicate these worries to the appropriate person who can either explain things better to put your mind at ease or perhaps modify the procedure to make it work better for you. In my case, openly sharing with my doctor about how scared I was and why helped him see what I needed and how to make me as comfortable as possible.
- Employ any mindfulness, distraction, or relaxation techniques you’ve previously found helpful before or during the stressful event to manage your feelings and minimize the fear response. For me, this involved slow breathing and doing mental math and then watching a movie on my phone.
- Set “performance” or “process” goals rather than outcome goals. What I mean by this is that you can’t always control the result of what happens or how the actual procedure plays out, like how in this case, that was in my doctor’s hands as he was physically performing the procedure. Instead of focusing or worrying about those aspects outside of my control, I tried to manage the parts that I did have the ability to influence: staying relaxed, following instructions, working with the doctor instead of fighting against him with my body, communicating as honestly and effectively as possible, staying pleasant rather than irritable leading up to the procedure and in the waiting room, willing my tensed body to comply, etc. Set reasonable expectations of yourself on these such factors that push you to improve on past “performances” and hold yourself accountable for doing the best you can.
- Be proud of how well you did and take stock of what you did best, what worked well and what didn’t, and weakness areas you need to focus on in the future. Piggybacking on the previous point (4.), don’t blame yourself if the aspects that didn’t go well were out of your control or if the entire goal of the procedure was not realized but the onus for that unfortunate outcome doesn’t fall on your shoulders.
- Take care of yourself after you get through it, whatever the result. Listen to your body and follow through with any sort of reward you had bribed yourself with it you deserve it (in my case, the movie). Otherwise, part of your brain will start doubting the promises you make to yourself to get you through things and this tactic will lose its effectiveness.
- Try to move on physically, emotionally, and mentally (in terms of the direction of your energy and attention) after the event is over and enjoy something relaxing or fun, depending on what you’re up to or the particular circumstances.
I’m still working on this whole process when approaching and going through situations that make my anxious. I’m trying to be deliberate in my stress management with medical appointments in particular because they are (though I’m starting to change this) such an anxiety-triggering experience for me that I avoid getting the care I need and my health suffers. Learning to prevent, or at least manage, this anxiety will remove a major roadblock in figuring out why I usually don’t feel well and suffer lots of different untoward symptoms at any given time. Plus, I think conquering this challenge will build my self-efficacy and confidence and my competence. Yesterday, was a good step forward.