How do I stop being irrationally paranoid about getting sick?
January 31, 2013 5:25 AM   Subscribe

I leave for a much much much needed vacation tomorrow that I've been looking forward to for the past two months. As more and more people around me (family, friends, coworkers) have been getting sick during this nasty flu season, I have been super paranoid about getting the flu myself just in time to spoil my vacation. I started feeling really achy and fatigued last night, but maybe it has more to do with other things?

I got a flu shot a little over two weeks ago and that definitely quelled a little bit of my fear, but last night at around 6 I started feeling incredibly tired and sort of achy in an onset-sickness way. I also woke up this morning with some very slight, dull body aches, though I'm wondering if this is a result of the fact that the weather where I live just went from below freezing, to 65 and humid, to raining and flood warnings - in about 72 hours - and maybe my body is reacting weirdly to it. I do not have a temperature.

Either way, I'm super paranoid about getting sick. I should probably stop worrying so much, leave for my trip anyway as long as I don't have a temp, but not sure how to chill the hell out. I'm putting myself in a position where I'm either a) not going to enjoy myself because I'll just be paranoid about if and when these onset symptoms are going to turn into a full-blown sickness or b) going to placebo effect/confirmation-bias myself into thinking that I am actually getting sick or actually sick, by mentally exacerbating my "symptoms". I realize this may be one of the more neurotic questions, but how do I reduce my anxiety about this over the next 24 hours, and just let myself be excited and enjoy myself?
posted by windbox to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have to go to work today? Because the best thing you could do, whether you have a cold or not, is to spend your day relaxing in bed, leisurely packing, eating soup and just vegetating in front of the TV/a book/on the couch. And getting a great night's sleep.
posted by lydhre at 5:49 AM on January 31, 2013

A lot of people feel a bit crummy after a flu shot. It's an uncommon but listed side effect, and will last only a day or two.

I'm one of these people, and it's just a vague feeling of coming down with something for me. You might be experiencing the same thing.
posted by k8lin at 6:26 AM on January 31, 2013

k8lin - this is normal over 2 weeks after a flu shot?
posted by windbox at 6:34 AM on January 31, 2013

I have been super paranoid about getting the flu myself just in time to spoil my vacation. I started feeling really achy and fatigued last night, but maybe it has more to do with other things?

If you are coming down with the flu, you are coming down with the flu. The only thing worry can do is make it worse. Stress has a negative effect on your immune response. Treat your body as though you have it (rest, fluids, healthy foods) but treat your mind as though you don't.
posted by headnsouth at 6:38 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you want to be virtually 100% sure you don't get sick by tomorrow, you should alternate normal/deep sleep for most of today and all of tonight. Deep sleep is your body's most natural, optimized state of relaxation, and immunity build. Your heart, bodily functions, brain activity reduce to tremendously low activity levels, which in turn rejuvenates your body in a way regular (awake) relaxation can never do.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:51 AM on January 31, 2013

Funny-- I got the shot a little over two weeks ago; I leave on a trip today and was sure yesterday that I was getting the flu. The thing with me is, at the height of the cold/flu season I keep feeling a bit ill and thinking I'm about to get it and then don't. If I cleared my calendar every time I thought I was coming down with something, I'd be inside for two months. Frustrating.

Anyway, all you can do is stick to your plans. Pound water, take your vitamin C, and try to sleep enough.
posted by BibiRose at 6:53 AM on January 31, 2013

Whether or not you worry about it has absolutely no impact on whether or not you're getting sick.

How about - instead of trying to manage your worry, you try to manage a potential illness? Stay home from work if you can, sleep a lot, drink a lot of fluids, and rest. Then go on your trip.
posted by Kololo at 7:12 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read recently that many cold remedies work through the placebo effect, but that the placebo effect can actually be quite powerful with the cold (less so with the flu, I'm sure). It is especially powerful if you really believe that what you're taking is going to work. So I would load up on whatever feels most effective to you -- emergen-C, zinc, rooibus tea -- and just keep telling yourself that "THIS is DEFINITELY going to fight off that cold, for sure, that's TAKEN CARE OF".
posted by EmilyFlew at 7:23 AM on January 31, 2013

Two weeks out is right about when your immunity should be set against the flu. I think, all things considered, it's quite unlikely to be the flu, and you're probably just feeling off for one reason or another - or it's another virus that is likely to pass much faster than the flu would.

Best thing you can do other than vitamin C, lots of water, and sleep (which are good suggestions, and if you start developing more common-cold type symptoms you could try adding zinc), is get your mind off this - find something to distract yourself from the worry - you only need to make it one more day! Enjoy vacation!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:23 AM on January 31, 2013

honestly, stressing out and being tight all day could cause you to feel tired and achey. nthing the rest advice. heck, even if you're sick, your vacation might be a quick cure!
posted by acm at 7:24 AM on January 31, 2013

You might be coming down with something but it's just as likely your paranoia is making you acutely aware of every little ache and pain. Once upon a time I spent some quality time working in a bio-containment hood with staphylococcus toxin. Let's just say that on days when I was working in the lab I was astonishingly aware of everything my stomach did to send lunch down the line (but I never once got ill).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:25 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I do this exact thing before vacations -- I worry so much about getting sick that I actually start to feel sick. Anxiety can play all kinds of nasty tricks. Never once has it turned out I was actually coming down with the cold/flu I was so worried about.

I try to manage the anxiety by combating it with more rational thoughts -- "I'm not getting sick, and even if I am, I will manage it. I'm anxious, and that's okay, but letting that anxiety overtake me would be unwise." Then I do my best to take it easy for a day, and I do the things that I'd do if I were truly getting sick -- drink orange juice, rest, take that mystical crap known as Airborne. I also monitor my temperature -- seeing that I'm not running a fever gives me concrete proof that I'm not getting sick.

Then I feel like I'm doing what I can, and that helps me calm down.
posted by QuickedWeen at 10:47 AM on January 31, 2013

This year's flu vaccine is officially listed as 62% effective, not a high number. But if you read the fine print (and explanations on websites), the effectiveness goes up if you're younger and have a strong immune system, and can reach as high as 90% or more.

Verdict: the symptoms you're experiencing are those of a cold, if they're not psychosomatic. Unless you're older and/or have a compromised immune system, you're almost definitely flu-free.
posted by Gordion Knott at 1:48 PM on January 31, 2013

Over the past month I have felt like I was about to get sick on multiple occasions. And my skin has been breaking out a ton, which happens when I get sick. I got the flu shot though so I haven't actually gotten sick. I'm fairly sure it's just my body fighting off all the various flu strains I've been exposed to as everyone I know has been sick. So your body may just be fighting something off.
posted by whoaali at 4:45 AM on February 1, 2013

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