Do you struggle with health anxiety? Maybe you often find yourself jumping to worst case scenarios, or Googling, or hyper focusing on sensations and symptoms. If you’re like, yes, yes, and yes, this episode will be so helpful for you!
Lily Sais is an anxiety coach (& former school psychologist), a podcast host, and is known for her super relatable and helpful TikTok videos and Instagram reels. Lily struggled with health anxiety herself as a teenager and young adult, and now, she helps others to overcome their struggles and return to a place of effortless mental wellbeing.
If you’re looking for some actionable and practical tips to overcome health anxiety, you’re in the right place!
LILY’S PERSONAL STRUGGLE WITH HEALTH ANXIETY
Lily shares that she had a lot of worry and anxiety when she was a teenager, especially after watching TV shows or when reading or hearing things relating to health.
Lily says, “I really thought, if something was possible, it was probable.” She struggled with worries of cancer, and more specifically brain cancer, or an aneurysm, or tumor. She often found herself researching things, hyperfocusing, and jumping to worst case scenarios.
And once she became a mom, her health anxieties became heightened. It was no longer just about her, but now she also had a little one to care for. She found herself obsessing over creating a healthy lifestyle, diet, and a healthy environment that was free from toxins, all in an effort to prevent her kids from ever getting sick. She made foods and products from scratch in an attempt to prevent both physical and mental illnesses.
HOW DO YOU BELIEVE IT’S ANXIETY AND NOT SOMETHING ELSE?
Lily emphasizes how important it is to have a better understanding of how our personal mind (our brain) works. She says, “Our brain's most important job is keeping us alive, not keeping us happy.” Sometimes it jumps to conclusions, it fills in the blanks, it airs on the side of caution because that’s what kept us alive in early human days.
Our brain is always narrating our experience and jumping to conclusions. Like when you have a headache and your brain goes to thoughts like… This headache is lasting a long time, longer than normal. You got good sleep, you’re hydrated, etc., I don’t know why I have this headache. And then your brain jumps to… you must have a brain tumor. This is your brain doing what brains do.
Lily also shares how helpful it is to recognize the health anxiety cycle. She says something really powerful, “Understanding and insight helps to create behavior change.” When you find yourself hyperfocusing on your thoughts and feelings, it’s so helpful to pause, get some distance from your thoughts, and get quiet. Your inner wisdom is gentle and has your best interest at heart. You carry so much wisdom and knowledge.
WHEN IS IT WORTH GOING TO THE DOCTOR
Lily talks about how when she had COVID she had a moment where she recognized that her thoughts were leading her to think that she may be experiencing symptoms that were concerning. But she paused and recognized that she was consuming her brain with way too much COVID-related content on Tik-Tok, and so she then made the decision to get off of Tik-Tok and see how she felt after. And when she did this, the thoughts and feelings passed.
This is why it’s important to pause and give yourself the opportunity to check in with yourself and your inner wisdom. She was able to recognize that the content that she was choosing to consume was likely directly correlated to her anxious thoughts and feelings.
It’s hugely important to recognize when you’re making decisions that may be heightening your anxious thoughts and feelings. It’s important to recognize that what you consume, whether it be on social media, or by Googling, or reading or listening to the news, are all things that are within your control, and you can make the healthy choice to disconnect and give yourself space from things that are fueling the anxious thoughts and feelings.
There’s nothing wrong with seeing your doctor. In fact, it’s important to get your annual physicals and wellness checks. This way, when you experience symptoms, you already have a baseline established that will help you to better distinguish when it’s most likely the stress response and anxiety rather than something that may need a doctor’s attention.
And it’s completely natural to sometimes look outside of yourself for reassurance (like to Google or to a doctor). But you have the answers inside of you. And if you pause and get quiet, it’ll give you a chance to see what comes up. It’s important to learn to trust yourself and your body. And it really goes back to understanding your brain and knowing that it’s trying to protect you rather than harm you.
HYPERFOCUSING ON THE SENSATIONS AND SYMPTOMS
The stress response exists to protect us. It’s important to understand and recognize this. Remember that having a better understanding of your brain and body will help you along your recovery journey.
Lily talks about how she experienced difficulty breathing when she was stressed, and so she’d often check and monitor her breathing. And if you’ve ever hyper focused on a sensation or symptom, you know how much havoc this can cause in your body and mind. Around this time she listened to a podcast where somebody said… What if you just let your symptoms be? What if it stopped letting it be front page news? This really resonated with her.
Unfortunately it can take some time for the symptoms to stop popping up, especially the ones that are the most bothersome. Lily says, “Our bodies are designed so beautifully, to heal and to come back into balance.” We often hinder our own healing by checking and poking. Our brain also works in a beautiful way, in that when we separate ourselves from the scanning and checking, it recognizes that it can let the thoughts go because they aren’t serving you in a helpful or healthy way. Because the reality is that when you stop scanning and checking, your brain will form different neural pathways that no longer have the sensations and symptoms popping up. But it’s important to acknowledge that this happens over time and not immediately.
YOU WON’T ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT (AND THIS IS OKAY)
There will be times when you catch yourself scanning, checking, and Googling, and this is okay. This is the human part of us. Remember, this is what our brains do. It’s important to acknowledge when you make an unhelpful decision and recognize that you will get another shot to do it differently.
Just being able to acknowledge and recognize when you’re participating in counterproductive behaviors is huge. A big part of changing behavior is being aware. And it’s important not to expect perfection because you won’t always get it right and this is okay.
Your mind is always going to narrate your experiences and tell stories. It’s important to know this and know that you can allow it to happen and still be peaceful.
WHERE TO FIND LILY
For coaching with Lily: Head to Lily’s website
For all of the knowledge, tips, tools, and truths, make sure to listen to the full episode!