How to be happy: 'I keep thinking I have some horrible illness'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I keep thinking that I have some horrible illness. It ranges from thinking I have IBS to an incurable cancer or HIV. I am obsessed with my health and although I realise that it is unlikely that I have got an illness – I have had dozens of tests – I cannot stay away from my GP. It makes me feel crazy. Lara.

Step 1: The thought that somehow we have contracted a pernicious, incurable illness is surprisingly common and it does not mean you are mad or a time-waster. Let's think about what these thoughts are really telling you. They tell you that you are depleted and afraid, that you feel incredibly vulnerable and in need of support. We often have these thoughts when we feel stressed, and beleaguered. So first thing is to identify what is making you feel overwhelmed.

Step 2: Now take a look at your feelings. When you imagine these diseases, what do you feel and where do you feel it? Do you feel frightened, abandoned, sad and yearning for someone to take care of you? Perhaps you feel angry and frustrated that no one seems to be taking you seriously? Listen to these feelings, they too are telling you something about the way you are responding to yourself and the relationships in your life. Instead of turning these feelings into "illnessess" which demand a cure, start to get to know your feelings and what they are trying to tell you.

Step 3: Now it is time to take care of your feelings and show them compassion. Instead of pathologising your feelings – turning them into incurable diseases – embrace them and recognise that in this moment of fear, what will help you most will be a renewing of your emotional resources through love, support and nurturing. Find ways that replenish your reserves so that you are not running on emotional empty, which will leave you vulnerable to imagining the worst. Take care of your body and mind through exercise, nutrition, companionship and creativity, all of which are fundamental aids to wellbeing. And remember, if you find yourself falling back into imagining the worst, all it means is that you are running on empty and that it is time to take care of yourself again.

Cecilia is Mind journalist of the year. If you would like her to answer your problems email her at c.dfelice@independent.co.uk

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