We received an unprecedented response to our recent article about anxiety.  Even as people consider and manage returning to the office and to school, Covid-19 remains a serious concern.

The pandemic has heightened people's stress levels, and stressed-out people don't make good healthcare decisions. When emotions are high, it's difficult to think clearly, evaluate your options, and determine the best way to proceed.

Emotions play a big role in healthcare.

Sometimes patients are too anxious and worried to seek healthcare, which prevents or delays them from getting the care they need. They might avoid going to the doctor because they're afraid of what the doctor will say, or they may be reluctant to ask doctors the hard questions about their condition.  

A clinical psychologist once told me, "To activate ourselves, we need to address our anxiety and fear." During emotionally loaded situations (such as when a patient is facing a serious illness), people often protect themselves by unintentionally shutting things out. They either don't absorb the information they're hearing, or they immediately forget it.

When a patient with a potentially serious illness isn't able to think through their healthcare decisions or navigate the system, it creates a difficult dynamic. This happens far too often and it’s a recipe for poor outcomes. Meanwhile, family members often have differing perspectives on their loved one's treatment, which only increases the emotionality of the situation.  

5 Tips for Making Sound Healthcare Decisions

1. Rely on trusted sources (including the CDC and academic medical centers like Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins) for information.

2. Reach out to your medical team. If you notice a new symptom or have questions about your health, talk with your primary care doctor and other specialists who know your healthcare situation.

3. Be mindful of what you are feeling. When you experience stress, anxiety, or other intense emotions, recognize that it may affect your thinking and decision-making abilities.

4. Make your mental health a priority.These steps will help you get started.

5. Ask an expert health advisor for help. Health advisors function outside of this emotional paradigm. They can view your situation objectively, evaluate your care and treatment options, and provide ongoing personal support.