• Stephanie Hansen

When Health Care Gets Personal

Since November, I have been in a perpetual state of anxiety. I check my Twitter feed ten times a day, and I receive push notifications from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the Huffington Post every two minutes. I thought I was managing the daily anxiety-causing onslaught of news until the health care debate started. It is fair to say that no matter what side of the aisle you are on, whether you think health care is a right or a privilege, we can agree that health care important. If you are like me and have a pre-existing condition or you are in active health care treatment, the anxiety can be exponential. In fact, studies estimate up to 50% of the population aged 18-64 have a pre-existing condition. And since the health care debate started, my anxiety has been off-the-charts.

I am a 6-year, stage III breast cancer survivor. I had a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and I am currently on hormone suppression therapy. I purchased my health care through the MNSure Exchange and I pay $1700 a month for myself, my husband, and our college-age daughter. My deductible is high, my prescription drug prices climbing (many drugs are not covered at all), and I had to change doctors and hospitals under the Exchange. But, still I cling to the coverage because it is all I have between catastrophic illness and financial ruin.

My mind starts spiraling with unanswered questions:

  • How much will my current monthly premium increase?

  • Will there be a lifetime cap on insurance?

  • What if I have a recurrence of cancer?

  • If I have a recurrence, will I need to get divorced to protect my family's savings?

  • What if I need to get my breast implants replaced or removed?

If you are like me, what can we do for our own self-care in the midst of the ongoing health care debate and political onslaught happening each day? Here are a few strategies I am working on:

Limit screen time and turn off notifications

Each day I allow myself 15-30 minutes to consume whatever news I like. Once my time is up, I don’t allow myself to extend it. If a war breaks out or natural disaster hits, then I will learn about it soon enough. I strive to be present in my day-to-day life to manage my feeling of anxiety and the doom and gloom.

Focus on what you can control

Donate time to your favorite political cause, volunteer at a non-profit, or write letters to your elected officials. Contribute to the solution by having your voice heard. Sometimes, by taking an active role and “doing something,” you can decrease the feeling of helplessness and reduce your anxiety.

Practice compassion

Channel your anger and helplessness into compassion. When a person makes you mad, or upsets you in any way, try to identify two or three things you have in common; we are all human. By finding what you have in common, you foster compassion. I have found that kindness can be practiced.

Focus on the positive

When I start thinking about all the negativity in the world, I choose to stop the mental spiral. I force myself to think of three positive things in my life. This sounds simplistic, but if I do it enough, I can sense a mental shift.

I have found that too much anxiety and negativity hijacks my day-to-day life and limits my capacity for joy. You and I may not master these techniques 100% of the time, but if we practice serenity with the same vigor that we consume the news cycle, then we might find the inner peace necessary to deal with whatever storms lie ahead.

Stephanie Hansen is a Broadcaster @mytalk1071 Weekly Dish radio. Podcaster @MakersofMN.

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