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Be Wary of Labels, Especially When Self-Diagnosing Health Issues!

Sometimes being given a label only adds to the worry of it all by fuelling stress and health anxiety.

I bet that if any of us opened up a thesaurus of health symptoms and conditions we'd be filled with serious concerns about our health after only a couple of pages. Health-related symptoms are one of the highest searched criteria on the web.

However, there are times when many of us feel jaded or despondent, our quality of sleep is not great, we're experiencing miscellaneous aches and pains. Sometimes being given a label only adds to the worry of it all by fuelling stress and health anxiety. It's important to be wary of labels, especially when self-diagnosing health issues!

As a long-established counsellor and hypnotherapist it's not uncommon for me to be asked for a diagnosis by my clients. 'Does this mean I'm stressed, depressed, suffering from anxiety?' they may ask. But, just as when you buy something from a shop which has a sticky label firmly attached, I often find that by giving someone a specific label to explain their feelings it can mean they need extra therapy sessions to then detach that label!

Yes, sometimes clients are relieved when they can put a name to how they're feeling, but oftentimes there are effective ways of dealing with issues without having to label and categorise them. It's okay to accept that there are times when we're weary, sad, stressed or overwhelmed. Things in life may gradually accumulate and result in us feeling battered and bruised. Not everything's a serious health issue though, and sometimes those times provide a nudge to sort out how we're running our life.

Learning effective ways to deal with challenges can teach us better ways to cope, to recover from the knocks life intermittently throws our way and then to turn each bad situation around.

- Accept that sometimes feeling tired, out of sorts, vaguely unwell is how it is. We may have a phase of not sleeping too well, of being a little weepy, of feeling grumpy or a bit down. Be gentle with yourself at those times. Occasionally our hormones, body clock, even a change in the weather or the cycle of the moon can throw us out of balance. Treat yourself with kindness; go to bed a little earlier, ensure you eat well, keep hydrated, take some gentle exercise, maybe get away for an hour or even a day or two.

- We teach people how to treat us. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said this, but certainly a high percentage of communication is done non-verbally. We communicate our responses to situations through cues so subtle that we may be unaware of them; fear, guilt, resignation, a desire to please are all evidenced through our breathing, stance, body language, posture. Tuning in and becoming aware of what we're projecting can turn a situation around.

- Remaining silent and uncommunicative, or alternatively always saying 'yes', can be interpreted as you being okay with how things are being handled. Take responsibility for how you come across and start to teach people to treat you well.

- Be careful not to compare yourself and how you're doing or coping with others. We all have different stories, priorities, situations we're dealing with, support networks, abilities and motivations. One person's nightmare situation may be another's piece of cake, and vice versa. Comparisonitis can result in massive insecurities.

- When we're exhausted and feeling low it may be because we're sorry for ourselves, feeling hard done by, unappreciated or taken for granted. Becoming appropriately assertive can be the way forward. All too often frustrations build up and then we explode over the smallest of things, crying, 'how dare you, it's not fair, after all I've done for you!' Or conversely we retreat into sadness, introspection and melancholia. Often a better outcome is achieved through love, affection and by staying calm and even-tempered. Learning to say, 'no', firmly and appropriately, perhaps without explanation or justification, can teach both yourself and others to appreciate and value you more.

- Being short of time is something many of us struggle with, but spreading ourselves too thinly can lead to burnout and overload. Clues that all is not well can be frequently going to bed later, getting up earlier, missing meals, cancelling breaks, exercise and fun. Again self-help comes from taking personal responsibility and communicating to others how you're feeling and what you need. Is there only you who's competent to do those tasks? Maybe it's time to train someone else, learn to delegate or be more realistic about your work v health choices.

- Deal with stress. Ensure that you have a set time when you switch off, unless there's an occasional, genuine emergency. Are there specific times when you frequently feel frazzled? We all have our early warning signals of stress. Become acquainted with yours and identify when you need a 'water-cooler' break, a piece of fruit, time for a game of golf or a long leisurely lunch. Research has found that we perform better, often bringing new ideas and thinking into a problem, once we've had some time away to detach a little.

If you find you're becoming increasingly stressed, snappy, not sleeping or are experiencing low mood booking a health check-up is advisable. However, many of us can learn to intervene early on and start to introduce positive, ongoing self-care. Appreciate you can only do so much each day before mistakes, accidents and poor concentration start to affect your health. By introducing good habits you achieve a healthier balance in your life, becoming equipped to deal with those unavoidable times when sacrifices have to be made, you need to work longer hours or juggle unanticipated demands.

Cheshire based author, a regular expert guest on BBC radio, columnist, relationship counsellor and hypnotherapist with over 20 years’ experience.

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Health Others Self-Help

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