It can be tempting to type symptoms into a search engine in a bid to seek medical advice online. And why not? The internet is a wealth of knowledge and Dr Google can diagnose the cause of stomach pain, headaches, anxiety, lack of sleep and almost any other concern in seconds. The problem in doing this is that while the medical advice we stumble upon may be scientifically accurate in some cases, it isn’t making a personal and professional assessment of the patient which can lead to misdiagnosis, fear and unnecessary worry.
COVID-19 has unleashed a new health worry for most of us as the infection rate has fluctuated over the past months. This coupled with social distancing and stay at home measures, has meant that more of us have been searching for diagnosis online rather than visiting GPs or pharmacists.
Everything from possible vaccinations and treatment drugs, to diet supplements and even stem cell treatment has featured in the top search terms on Google over the past few weeks proving that we are at home looking for ways to combat the virus should we unfortunately become unwell. What is also quite concerning is that terms related to mental health has also increased, with posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and loneliness on the rise.
During this time, the worst thing we can do is bottle up any worries or health concerns we may be feeling. It is important to remember that we are not alone and there are people available to help, so we don’t need to rely on our own research and online diagnosis. Health services are there to not only give us an accurate and personal examination, but to also fill us with reassurance and comfort. GPs, pharmacists, NHS 111, charities and online therapy providers are all still available for consultations and appointments when you need them.
If you do find you are filling some of your time scrolling pages seeking online health advice, then there are measures you can put in place to limit the anxiety that can come with ‘Dr Googling’.
Limit your screen time
We can end up losing hours mindlessly surfing the web. Set limits on your screen time and swap your device for a good book. Good Housekeeping has published their review of the top picks of 2020 so far, with some great recommendations, this is a great place to start.
Introduce feel good habits
A daily habit tracker can be a good way to monitor how you are spending your time. Try popping things in there that you know will lift your spirits and distract you from turning on your computer. Whether it is watching an episode of friends, trying a new baking recipe or even taking on a fitness challenge, setting daily and weekly goals is a good way to make sure we are still prioritising things that makes us happy even while in lockdown (which isn’t always easy). It is also great to be able to look back at your list and reflect at how well you are doing each week, and maybe think of new things you can add to it.
Did you know, that if you suffer from stress and anxiety, caffeine can often act as a stimulant? Caffeine is found in many different food and drinks including coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, chocolate and energy bars. If you think that caffeine is having a negative effect on you, try reducing your intake, or even switching it out for something else. Green tea is a great example as there are many different flavours available and you can even go for an iced option to suit to warmer summer days.
Talk about it
Bottling up how you feel and what you are thinking can be the biggest blockage when it comes to finding relief. Even if it isn’t with your doctor, a friend or family member that you can off load your thoughts to can sometimes be all we need and will be enough to eliminate our fear.
If you find that you need a little bit of extra support dealing with feelings of worry and anxiety, then online therapy could help. A therapist can help you understand the cause of these feelings and help to put coping strategies in place to help manage it, all from the comfort of your own home. Remember, we’re all in this together.