Q: It might sound silly, but I am worried that the virus will target me and my family specifically. All the time I cannot shake off the feeling, I cannot sleep properly, and every cough or sneeze makes me panic. I think it will make us all ill, or worse, and that things will be terrible for us. How can I start to think more logically about things?

A: Let’s be clear about one thing from the outset – your thoughts and fears aren’t foolish at all, far from it! Given the current situation it is understandable that you are concerned about contracting the virus. Most are.

I fully understand that the virus has really shaken you up and is impacting your day-to-day life. This is a shame, because once the door to anxiety is ajar it can lead to increasing problems over time. In fact, the way you’re feeling could be a sign of what we call hypochondria, which is basically health anxiety. Simply put, it’s a kind of anxiety we experience when we spend too much time worrying that we may either be ill or easily prone to becoming ill, and over time the anxiety it causes –– you guessed it, makes us ill.

Anxiety can present as headaches, stomach upset and a racing heartbeat. Sure sign we ‘must’ be sick right? Often, hypochondriacs misinterpret any symptom as a sign for any illness. They worry about their health constantly, frequently checking themselves for any possible confirmation of illness. They often seek reassurance from people around them that they are not sick. They worry that medical professionals have missed something important. They can even act and behave as if they are ill.

Let’s look at some solutions for you. Firstly, it’s important to follow the rules. The authorities are asking us to play our part to resolve the problem, and that’s exactly what we should do. However, this doesn’t mean you should become obsessed by the pandemic and the risks. It’s important to be well informed, but please don’t stray into becoming obsessed. Social media and 24-hour news can be a double-edged sword!

As you know, I’m a great believer in writing things down. Try keeping an anxiety diary. Each time you worry about your health or check your body for any kind of illnesses, make a quick note of it in your diary. After a week or two, you’ll get a clearer picture of your behaviour.

As you have your pen in hand, try drawing a table with two columns. Then, any time you feel like you have a health issue, jot it down in the first column. Now, in the second column try balancing out these thoughts by giving a reason as to why you could be feeling this way. Remember, it’s not a test or an essay, just a simple reference tool. For example, if you are someone who suffers from headaches, note this down in your first column. Now, balance this worry but noting down the plausible reason for these headaches like, it could be a result of stress or a sleepless night or being out in the sun too long. Naturally, don’t use this method to discount genuine serious health symptoms.

"Rome wasn’t built in a day?" and neither will your health anxiety issues be resolved instantaneously. But with the power of an informed and optimistic mind, you’ll be amazed how things will turn around for you. By adopting a more positive outlook on your health your mood will rise and you’ll be able to think logically at last. The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of taking good care of ourselves both mentally and physically.

One thing that is for certain though, is that you won’t be alone in needing some additional help and support over the coming months, but together we will move beyond this, and who knows, we may even learn from it.

Moving forward, we should be seeking health not looking for illness.

Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting (russellhemmings.co.uk). Got a problem? Our panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.

Read more