Each year, more than 40 million American adults undergo a preventative health examination (PHE). The purpose of these procedures is to screen for potential concerns, helping patients to feel reassured of their good physical condition and allowing doctors to identify problems as early as possible.
No matter how well they know their doctor, and no matter how many times they may have visited them in the past, some people will still feel incredibly nervous before an examination. Depending on the individual in question, their reasons for such discomfort will vary. Perhaps they have had a bad experience with another physician in the past, have body-image issues, or simply fear that the results of the examination will be negative.
Avoiding a regular check-up with your local doctor may help you to skip these difficult examinations, but this carries risks. Without a thorough check-up, you may allow warning signs to go unseen, leading to problems further down the line.
However, for those prone to pre-medical nerves, this is easier said than done. Fear of invasive treatments, for example, may put people off of undergoing an endoscopy (in which an endoscope is inserted into the body) while others may fear a stranger's touch on the body.
Ensuring you are in a relaxed state of mind before you visit your doctor can help to make the entire experience more comfortable overall, causing less stress.
There are many relaxation techniques out there which may help you enter the physician's office with a clearer mind and calmer body. Some of these can be performed wherever you need to, and will work better than others. You may well need to experiment with more than one to find the best-suited to your specific feelings.
1: Breathing To Ease Your Worries
This breathing exercise can be performed in only a minute or so, and is ideal for last-minute relaxation in the doctor's waiting room.
Simply put your hand under your navel, so you can sense your belly's movements, and then breathe in. Hold it for three seconds, and then release. Wait another three seconds.
For another minute, breathe deeply in this same pattern, remembering to count out three seconds between each. You can do this in public without attracting too much attention, and you'll notice an immediate difference in the way you feel.
2: Come On, Loosen Up
Moving your body is generally involuntary when we're nervous, as anyone who paces the waiting room or taps their feet absent-mindedly on the floor will know. However, small, controlled movements can actually help you to relax, as you move your body into a more comfortable posture.
Start with your facial muscles: relax them, and ease your jaw open. Drop your shoulders gently, and bring your arms to your sides, before relaxing your hands enough for spaces to form between your fingers. Move your legs apart.
With your body loose and limp, focus on your breathing. In. Hold. Out. Slowly. Do this again and again.
3: Make A Note Of Your Thoughts
Writing your stressful thoughts down can help you to relax. Don't try to write well, or to turn your anxious feelings into a story – instead, just focus on transferring your thoughts to the paper or screen. This can help to make your feelings more concrete, and allow you to put them in perspective more easily.
For example, if you have a fear of an endoscope being used during an examination, jot this down. Explore the reasons behind this discomfort, and how relevant or accurate these are.
Try this before leaving to visit your doctor, or even in the waiting room with a notepad or on your smartphone.
4: Get Your Head Down
This is best performed at your desk at home, or in in your when you arrive at the doctor's office – anywhere with a solid surface in front of you.
Place your arms on top of each other, and rest your forehead on one or both forearms, with your spine fully extended and your feet flat. This is related to a yoga manner of relaxation, in which resting the forehead is believed to help the mind quieten down.
Take deep breaths and focus on positive thoughts, such as the potential benefits your medical examination offers (learning that you are in good health, for example).
5: Twist Your Way To Greater Comfort
This relaxation technique can be performed on any chair. Begin by sitting on the edge, with feet firmly on the floor. Turn your torso right, bringing your upper right arm over the chair's back and the left hand outside your right knee.
Hold this position for five deep breaths, and look over your shoulder to keep your spine twisting more. Try this movement again, on your left side. This can help to refresh your back muscles and aid digestion, with the breathing putting you in a more relaxed mode.
Avoid letting a medical examination upset you or cause undue worry, and take care to try the above techniques in an appropriate setting. The more relaxed you can be during the exam, the faster and more effective it is likely to be. Remember: your physician is there to help, so be honest about how you feel. They will be happy to recommend relaxation techniques, and to set your mind at ease.