You already know that fear affects your health. Depression, digestive problems, insomnia, heart disease and hypertension can all be caused or exacerbated by living in a state of stress. But what happens when the opposite equation occurs, when a health issue unexpectedly brings fearful thoughts and feelings into your life?

Being diagnosed with a serious health problem can be a frightening experience. Worries about how an illness will affect your family, your finances, your career and your quality of life are normal. But remaining afraid can have negative consequences on the recovery process. If you or someone you love is struggling to cope with a health problem, try these tips to stay calm and grounded.

  1. Don’t make decisions when you’re feeling fearful. Unless you are in a real emergency situation, most healthcare decisions can wait a day or two—even if others want you to make decisions immediately. Waiting at least 24 hours will help you regain your center, weigh your options and make choices that truly reflect your beliefs.
  2. If you don’t already practice meditation regularly, now is the perfect time to start. Meditation isn’t a magical cure-all or a substitute for medical care, but it is a highly effective way to relieve stress and calm your mind when all the “what ifs” encroach on your inner peace.
  3. Envision your unique road to wellness. What kind of healthcare do you want? If you’re not receiving the type of medical care you trust most, it’s only natural to be more fearful. Become your own best health advocate, and find the professionals who will work together to provide the care you need.
  4. Get spiritual support. Go to church, or your drum group or that singing bowl meditation class you’ve been meaning to check out. Turn to the people who share your core values and let them help you dispel unnecessary fears as you focus on getting better.