Managing Anxiety Before and During Doctor’s Visits

Doctor’s appointments can be stressful, and it’s natural for anyone of any age to feel anxious or worried before a doctor’s appointment. As we age, however, these medical appointments often become more frequent, only heightening senior citizen’s anxiety during these visits. Luckily, there are several techniques that seniors can use to help manage their anxiety before and during doctor’s visits.

  1. Scheduling: Make sure your appointment is at a convenient time for you. Whether you prefer to have your appointment as early as possible to get it over with or enjoy a relaxing day before visiting your doctor in the evening, make sure that you prioritize your preferences when you schedule. When you do make the appointment – put it in your calendar! This will help ensure you both stick to your appointments and have adequate time to prepare.
  2. Take a Family Member or Trusted Friend Along: Bringing a trusted individual, such as a personal care assistant, with you to your appointment can help ease your anxiety before and during an appointment. Not only can they help ensure you arrive to your doctors on time, but they can comfort you through particularly stressful moments and help keep track of key medical information from the doctor.
  3. Try Breathing Exercises: When we’re anxious, our breath naturally becomes shallower and faster. This, however, can be reversed. By breathing in a controlled manner, you can ‘trick’ your brain into feeling more relaxed. One exercise to try is the 4-7-8 technique, during which you breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. You could also simply focus on taking slow, full breaths without counting. Whichever technique you choose, deliberate breathing is a great way to manage anxiety before or during a doctor’s visit.
  4. Mentally Prepare Yourself: Knowledge is power and when facing your anxiety, this can be especially true. Many seniors may feel anxiety around why their doctor’s perform certain tests or procedures, or just which tests will be performed in general. For this reason, it can be helpful to keep informed on what will be covered in your appointment. If this is a routine physical, ask your doctor what tests might be done and how you can best prepare for them. If this is a visit concerning a specific issue, write down the questions you have for your doctor beforehand and bring a notepad to remember their answers. Avoid searching the internet to self-diagnose the issue, as these may suggest more severe health conditions that are not accurate.

Though doctor’s visits can be stressful, especially as you get older, you do have the power to manage your anxiety and approach your appointments more confidently. If you find your anxiety is serious or debilitating, consider contacting a mental health professional for additional care.