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How to Overcome Appointment Anxiety so You Can be Your Best Advocate

How to Overcome Appointment Anxiety so You Can be Your Best Advocate

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We All Experience Anxiety

Appointment anxiety is familiar to many LS warriors. That sneaky anxiety creeps up when you’re heading to or thinking about a doctor’s appointment. Today I want to talk about overcoming appointment anxiety.

We’ve all felt anxiety. That feeling of something’s not right. Something’s going wrong. Something terrible is about to happen. The dread. The worry.

The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worry, thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

Anxiety’s a bitch, and when it comes to LS, anxiety comes easy.

Appointment Anxiety on the Drive to the Doctor’s Office

First off, what do I mean by appointment anxiety? I mean the anxiety and fear we feel when going to or thinking about our first doctor’s appointment, a follow-up appointment, or an emergency appointment because something is off.

Recently, I experienced appointment anxiety while driving to the doctor’s office. Suddenly, my eyes welled up, and I felt a chill go through my entire body. I felt sick to my stomach and became overcome with dread and worries about what the doctor might tell me.

My mind was fixed on the worst-case scenario. It was all I saw at the moment.

Appointment anxiety creeps up on us when we least expect it, like driving to our appointment. Image of woman driving.

What if they said those words?

The thing was that this appointment wasn’t even for me! It was for my 8-year-old daughter, who had been complaining of vulvar pain. I was terrified. I didn’t want my daughter to have LS!

It’s hard enough for an adult to process and deal with LS. I couldn’t imagine my baby not only suffering this pain and irritation but having to live with those for the rest of her LIFE. 

Letting Go of Appointment Anxiety

Seeing her future through that lens momentarily paralyzed me with anxiety.

But this was an important doctor’s visit for my little girl. It would be the first appointment where she would have someone looking at her private parts.

I needed to be strong for her. My responsibility was to take the lead when we got to the doctor’s office.

I needed to ask the right questions, hear and listen to what the doctor said, speak up and communicate for my daughter. If I let anxiety continue to consume me, I wouldn’t be able to advocate for her properly.

About a third of the way into the drive, I snapped out of it and back to the present.

Image of person walking amongst a crowded street. The crowd is blurred out and the person has their hands over their face representing the dizzying feeling of appointment anxiety.
If you have Lichen Sclerosus, you’ve probably experienced appointment anxiety, an overload of emotions that come over you before an appointment. Fear, shame, anger, and sadness are just some of the many emotions you may feel before seeing the doctor.

The Importance of Being Present

Being present at doctor’s appointments is vital to our health. When fully engaged with our doctors, we can ask questions, hear their plans to manage our care, ask follow-up questions, and voice our needs and concerns.

If we’re wrapped in anxiety, we will likely miss something. We might leave the office without asking an important question or being clear on follow-up instructions. We won’t be able to advocate for ourselves fully.

But conquering anxiety and being present is not easy! So, here are three actionable tips I take to become present and overcome appointment anxiety.

Tips to Overcome Appointment Anxiety

The 5-Senses Grounding Technique for Anxiety

The first step I use to overcome appointment anxiety is to pull myself out of its grip.

One strategy I use is the 5-senses grounding method. This technique helps reconnect you with your immediate surroundings and the present moment. 

The next time you feel anxious, try it:

  1. Notice five things you can see (for example, “I see a computer, a coffee mug, a phone, a blue highlighter, and a Kleenex box”).
  2. Notice four things you can touch (for example, “I can touch the keys on my keyboard, warm fuzzy socks, the chair beneath me, and the heating pad on my back”).
  3. Notice three things you can hear (for example, “I can hear the rain outside, the music from my Spotify playlist, and the sound of typing”).
  4. Notice two things you can smell (for example, “I smell the fresh rain and coffee”)
  5. Notice one thing you can taste (for example, “I taste coffee with hazelnut cream”).

Get Real With Yourself

Once I return to the present, I ask myself the following questions.

“Can you change the outcome right now”? If you can’t change it, let it go.

“Will working myself up and dwelling on anxious fears change anything for the better”? If it’s not improving your situation, do your best not to do it.

Finally, “Am I focusing on the worst-case scenario”? If you are, try to be objective. Remember, the worst-case scenario is not necessarily reality. There are so many other possibilities out there. Why focus on the worst that can happen? Especially when it is only worsening your mental state!

Focus on the Positive and Plan for the Negative

Image of teal background with the letters F-O-C-U-S spelled out in multicolor. Focusing on the present can help you overcome appointment anxiety.

My last tip to overcome appointment anxiety is to focus on the positive and to plan for the negative. 

What do I mean by this?

Focus on the positive outcomes. What if your doctor tells you your Lichen Sclerosus is looking better?

Don’t dwell on the worst-case scenario. If you only focus on the worst-case scenario and get good news, think about all the time you wasted in a bad headspace when you could have been living fully, enjoying time with your family, or indulging in your hobbies.

Concentrate on what you can control instead of what you have no control over (for instance, the outcome of the doctor’s appointment and what they will tell you).

On the way to the doctor’s office, instead of fixating on the worst-case scenario, focus on the questions you want to ask and your main concerns and needs.

If you want to understand how to be a better self-advocate in your healthcare, you need to watch Dr. Jen Morgan’s presentation from Holistic Healing Summit 2022.

How to be your own advocacy superhero

In this video, Dr. Jen Morgan explains how to open lines of communication with your medical team & insurance company, decrease barriers to care, and eliminate fear to empower your decision-making today.

Learn More
Dr. Jen Morgen give you actionable steps to be your best medical advocate

Preparation is how you plan for the negative (but note, not the worst-case scenario). You accept that there may be bad news, but you have a checklist for getting through this appointment and being active in your health journey by engaging with your medical team. Focus on what you are there to do, not what might happen in the future.

A Moment of Gratitude

In my example of appointment anxiety, I spoke about bringing my daughter to the doctor for vulvar pain. While I was afraid, I grounded myself and focused on what I needed to do.

I’m so grateful the doctor didn’t think it was Lichen Sclerosus but a bladder infection. My baby girl is now on antibiotics and feeling much better.

I was able to advocate for my daughter because I was able to overcome my appointment anxiety.

Image of mother and daughter in the doctor's office, both mother and daughter looking happy, representing my relief that my little girl was going to be OK.

Conclusion: Key Lessons on Appointment Anxiety

Next time you’re headed to the doctor’s office and have appointment anxiety

  • Try a grounding technique to pull yourself back into the present moment.
  • Take a few deep inhales and exhales.
  • Ask yourself whether you can change this outcome and if working yourself up will change the situation. If not, exhale deeply and let it go as best as possible.
  • Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

I hope these tips help you the next time you are affected by appointment anxiety.

If you struggle with health anxiety, be sure to check out this post.

How do you deal with anxious thoughts about doctor’s appointments? Do you have any tips or tricks that help you? Let us know in the comments below!

Or better yet! Why not join us for our next free international Lichen Sclerosus virtual meetup and tell me your favorite tip?

Virtual Meetup Information

We meet every other Saturday from 2–4 PM and 7–9 PM Eastern Standard Time. Take this opportunity to share your diagnosis story, what is and isn’t working for you, and ask a question to the group.

Share your experience with appointment anxiety! I have met many incredibly strong LS warriors through these meetups, and I would love for you to join our community. 

Sign up at HERE for notifications and updates. I cannot wait to meet you!

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