I’ve always had a high level of health-related anxiety – Is that ache in my side something serious? Do I need that new medicine I saw on TV? Are there harmful chemicals in my shower gel? Yet paradoxically, I also tend to neglect legitimate health matters. I put off annual exams, ignore issues until I can’t any longer, and make choices that I know aren’t good for me. When it comes down to it, it often just feels too intimidating or even terrifying to address these things. (If something is really wrong, maybe it’s better not to know, I rationalize).
To many people, this seems the opposite of rational. Yet as someone with anxiety, I confess to being really good at making excuses to justify something I’m doing or not doing – particularly when it comes to my health. And from my experience talking with other anxiety sufferers, I’ve learned that this is incredibly common, and a lot of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common excuses that anxiety sufferers make regarding their health and well-being, and what the truth is behind these excuses.
- “I’m too busy to exercise regularly.”
The truth: When faced with making a change, anxiety sufferers tend to struggle just taking the first step, and they are more likely to become discouraged early on. And it’s no secret that starting a regular exercise regimen is difficult: Fitting workouts into a hectic schedule requires a significant adjustment in lifestyle and priorities, and you must work through initial discomfort and soreness as the body adapts. But almost everyone can carve out a minimum of 20-30 minutes a few times a week to get moving. The mood-enhancing effects of exercise are invaluable to those with anxiety disorders or high stress levels.
- “I’ll quit smoking/drinking/over-eating once my life is less stressful.”
The truth: An old friend of mine has always been fond of the saying, “Life doesn’t stop for anybody.” This is particularly relevant when you’re trying to change bad habits. When faced with a lot of anxiety and stress, it can be tempting to put off making important changes until everything settles down. But the fact is, there’s never going to be a “perfect” time, because stress is inevitable. Life doesn’t stop for anybody — but the sooner you commit to a change, the sooner you’ll begin enjoying better health.
- “I’m too overwhelmed to worry about eating healthy.”
The truth: Healthy eating is a challenge for most. It involves careful planning and re-thinking your approach to eating. Sometimes it feels like just one more thing you don’t have the time or energy to worry about. But a poor diet quite literally feeds anxiety – slowing you down, disrupting your mental processes, and making even ordinary tasks seem overwhelming. The effort it takes to clean up your diet is well worth the payoff.
- “I don’t get enough sleep, but that’s just the way it is.”
Sleeplessness may be common, but that doesn’t mean you should accept it as a fact of life. It’s nearly impossible to maintain your emotional and physical health when your mind and body are not rested, and lack of sleep has been linked to a number of chronic health problems. Getting at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night should be a top priority.
We all feel incredible pressure to juggle life’s many demands, and sometimes the stress of pushes us to make excuses about important things. But the bottom line is that unless we take care of ourselves, we can’t effectively care for others or confidently face life’s challenges. It’s time to take an honest look at the excuses we make, and how we might be holding ourselves back from a life of better health and less anxiety.