Afraid of Routine Health Screenings and Tests? 7 Tips to Reduce Anxiety

A woman sitting on a yoga mat in front of her couch meditating with her hands on her chest and stomach while her eyes are closed.

Many people tend to procrastinate scheduling routine health screenings and tests because they feel afraid they’ll learn something bad. In fact, one survey discovered that one in three Americans avoid going to the doctor even if they think they need medical care.

It’s understandable to feel butterflies at the prospect of a medical test but catching health issues as early as possible is important to ensure proper treatment and a better outcome. Postponing important screenings or tests can potentially lead to worse outcomes which might require even more medical tests so it’s best to complete routine check-ups on time.

Here are some helpful tips you can follow to reduce that ball of nerves and schedule the tests you need. 

1. Get to the Root of Your Anxiety

Before doing anything else, think about what exactly you’re afraid of. There could be a number of reasons you feel stressed in a medical environment. For example, you might be worried about:

  • Receiving a scary diagnosis
  • Being unable to afford treatment you need
  • Having to undergo an invasive test
  • Feeling like the doctor is judging you
  • Not being able to take time off work for medical appointments 

Once you’ve clarified what specifically makes you feel nervous about health screenings, you can take the proper steps to address your fears.

2. Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor, nurse or other medical professional questions about what’s going to happen during the test or exam. The more you learn, the less fear you’ll feel. A greater understanding takes the mystery out of the medical process and helps you know what to expect each step along the way.

If you aren’t sure what exams or tests you’ll need to have done at a certain appointment, call the office and ask. They may not be able to give you a direct answer because the doctor may need to examine you before deciding which tests to order, but calling can ease your mind.

3. Choose Your Provider

This option might not be available to everyone but choosing your own provider can help cut down on medical anxiety. Maybe your friend recommends a certain doctor. Or perhaps you’re a woman and you feel more comfortable seeing a female doctor.

Whatever the situation, if you are able to pick a specific provider it gives you some control and autonomy over the situation. And if you end up not liking the provider you see it’s OK to move on and see a different doctor.

4. Be Open With Your Doctor

When you’re seeing a provider you trust, it’s easier to be open and honest with them about how you’re feeling. Explain that you’re feeling nervous and try to pinpoint what exactly is causing the nerves.

Once your doctor knows how you’re feeling, they’re more likely to slow down, explain things clearly, and do their best to help calm your fears.

5. Bring A Friend

Do you have a family member or friend who would be willing to attend an appointment with you? Ask a loved one if they’d be available to come along.  Keep in mind that some hospitals and doctor’s offices do still have COVID-19 visitor policies

in effect. They might not allow any visitors with the patient or may only allow an “essential caregiver.” If you’re unsure, call the facility before you go to ask if you can bring a companion.

Another option is to ask if your appointment can be conducted via telehealth. This may not be possible for every appointment. But it can offer a way for a loved one to still be present during the conversation and being in your own home instead of a sterile medical environment can lessen your nerves, too.  

6. Lower Your Stress

If you expect to feel stressed around the time of your appointment or screening, do everything you can to lower the amount of stress that’s present in other aspects of your life. 

For instance, you could do your best to: 

  • Get plenty of sleep the night before
  • Give yourself enough time to deal with traffic and parking
  • Take the day off work, if that’s a possibility 

This is not the time to add more stress into your life. Do everything you can to lower your overall stress levels around the time of the big day.

7. Book the Appointment

Sometimes the best way to alleviate health-based anxiety is to go ahead and just get the appointment on the calendar. It sounds counterintuitive but that feeling of anticipatory anxiety can be helped by just taking the plunge and calling. But the longer you put it off, the more stressed it will make you feel and living with anxiety or stress long-term doesn’t do good things to your body. Plus, when your test or exam is over, you’ll be reminded that you can do hard things.

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