How can I break bad health habits?

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Answered by: Irene, An Expert in the Healthy Living 101 Category
As it is my last year of school and I will soon be on my quest into the real world, I’m realizing that I have only a short amount of time to get it together so that people in the real world might actually consider taking me seriously. I know that I have quite a list of bad health habits I need to break before I can start forming more mature and productive ones. Through writing this blog, I hope to encourage myself to end some of these destructive ways, and hopefully persuade some of you to do the same.

BAD HABIT # 1: Being an Obsessive Mess

I was eight when my father (Papa, as my sister and I fondly called him) began his life-long, losing battle with his health—and I began mine with anxiety. I remember hearing the words “brain tumor”, remaining very calm, and then closing the door to the bathroom and bursting into tears. I had no idea what it meant (if only Google was an option back then) but I knew it wasn’t good. Yet, as they would until his eventual death 9 years later, my parents assured me that everything would be alright and I tried to believe them.

When my dad came home from the operation with a bandage wrapped over and over around his head, I tried to joke with him, knowing his brilliant sense of humor could help ease some of the tension. But it seemed that he did not hear or understand. He spoke in monotone and had a blank expression for those first couple of days. I thought he had changed forever, but he hadn’t.

Eventually, my dad returned right back to his normal self—hard-working, caring, and hilarious--and it seemed as though the operation had never happened. At school one day, I sat on the swings with a girl from my class and told her all about it and how lucky we were that it was over with. She proceeded to tell me about her grandfather who had a brain tumor removed, and her family, like mine, who thought everything was fine, until a couple of years later, he developed the cancer from which he died.

Appalled that she would share such a ludicrous story with me after I just poured my heart out to her, I coldly thanked her for sharing, assured her that that was not the case here, and left her foolish little self to swing alone—what I felt to be an appropriate punishment.

But I wasn’t so sure at all. I began to have nightmares and visions all the time of my father falling sick and dying like her grandfather. And then ironically, and devastatingly enough, the little brat turned out to be right. Two years later, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, a cancer he would fight for seven years until it cut his life short, and left mine, my mother’s, and my sisters’ shattered.

The grieving that followed is another story in itself, but another “side effect” that I wasn’t expecting came as well. The anxiety that started after that day on the playground was now back, and in full effect. Now that I no longer had my dad’s health to worry about, I turned my attention to my mom, my sister, and most destructive of all, myself.

I began having terrible visions about my mom or my sister falling ill, and thinking I had symptoms of pretty much anything I read about, Googling it, and obsessing over it without ever really doing anything productive about it.

With our society trying to be so much more health-aware and information so easily available to us, it’s hard not to end up diagnosing yourself. From reading my Cosmo which is now full of safe sun warnings and cancer stories, to going to biology and learning about it, to turning on Oprah and seeing stories about it, surely this must be a sign that I, too, am going to die of cancer! Right? No.

It took me—is still taking me—so long to realize that my mental health is equally as important as my physical. And if I spend all day long worrying about an eventual disease that I may or may not get, I’ll ruin it with stress and anxiety and continue to maintain my bad health habits.

I am realizing that there is a fine line between us being negligent about our health and obsessing over it. Though so much information and advice is constantly being thrown at us, we have to learn how to take it all with a grain of salt, and how not to take any of it all. Sometimes I think there is a little too much being thrown at us, causing our brains to go in overdrive. Thanks to health reports of all kinds (and who knows which ones actually hold weight?), people are now scared that anything from their IPODs to their microwaves are going to eventually give them cancer.

Being educated about your health is a must, but being neurotic about it is something you just can’t afford to do, for the sake of your health and your sanity.

Now, I am trying to remain healthy and aware, noticing any changes or signs of concern, but otherwise concentrating on living my life day to day and laying off the Google searches.

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