A new symptom or lab test often provokes the question, “Should I be worried?” The answer is always, “No!” Worry is a useless, painful thing we humans do. We get anxious without a firm basis for our reactions. A symptom or abnormal lab test often mean nothing, so doesn’t it make more sense to worry AFTER something has been confirmed? And even then, the value of worry is questionable, because anxiety doesn’t solve anything and it often makes matters worse.
HOWEVER, fear, worry and anxiety are normal human responses. In fact, scientists tell us that the fear reaction is our natural default. We are hard-wired to look for and expect bad stuff. So, what I wrote in the first paragraph is actually quite unnatural.
For me, knowing that fear is hard-wired in me is enormously liberating. When I feel uneasy, I say to myself, “There, there. You are just having a human moment.“ This allows me to do through it, as if the door to peace is wider. Telling myself to “get over it” or “fear is useless” never helps. It slams the door to peace shut.
Back to the first sentence in this blog, When we ask, “Should I be worried?” after experiencing a new symptom or lab test, what we are really asking is, “Could this be something serious? That is really a different question. Either our problem is or it isn’t serious. In that case, it may help to postpone any potential anxiety until you have firm results. That way you aren’t worrying over nothing, should the results turn out favorably.
This is easier said than done, and it takes a lot of practice. Mediation helps. You can try tempting yourself into anxiety-free moments by saying, “I’ll worry about this tomorrow.” If that is too much, you can aim to postpone worry for an hour or five minutes.
If that seems unrealistic, than go ahead and worry. Skip the guilt, and just let the anxiety be what it is. It will pass. And if turns out you were worried over nothing, than celebrate the good news.