How to Calm Anxiety Before a Doctor's Appointment

Are you worried about your upcoming doctor’s appointment? You’re not alone. About 3% of people have a true fear of doctors. Many more are afraid of the unknown or of receiving bad news. Anxiety is normal before a doctor’s appointment, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer. We’re going to share some helpful tips on how to calm anxiety before a doctor’s appointment.

How to Calm Anxiety Before a Doctor's Appointment

Use Breathing Exercises

how to calm anxiety before a doctors appointment man on waiting room couch practicing breathing exercises

Breathing exercises can be performed anywhere and at any time. If you’re anxious about an upcoming doctor’s appointment, try doing some deep breathing exercises before you head out the door. If you’re still feeling anxious in the waiting room, you can continue focusing on your breath without anyone noticing.

Here are some exercises to try:

Belly Breathing

Research shows that 20-30 minutes of deep belly breathing can help reduce anxiety. To practice belly breathing:

  • Start by placing one hand on your chest and the other on your belly just below your ribs.
  • Relax your abdomen, and begin slowly breathing in through your nose.
  • Feel your breath move in through your nose and down towards your stomach. Feel your belly rise against your hand and fall in towards your spine.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth. Your hand should remain still throughout the exhale.

In the days or weeks before your appointment, try practicing this exercise daily to keep your stress and anxiety at a more manageable level.

Box Breathing

Box breathing, or four-square breathing, is a meditative type of breathwork that can help you feel calmer.

  • Start by exhaling for a count of four.
  • Pause at the end of the exhale for a count of four.
  • Inhale for a count of four.
  • Pause at the top of the inhale for a count of four.
  • Repeat.

Box breathing forces you to stay focused on your breath and the counting with each step. Every breath keeps you in the present moment, helping you forget your worries and anxiety.

Simple Deep Breathing

This simple deep breathing exercise can help calm your nerves before you leave for your appointment and when you’re in the waiting room. 

  • Inhale slowly through your nose. Make sure that your shoulders are relaxed. Expand your abdomen as you inhale. Your chest should only rise a little.
  • Exhale gently and slowly through your mouth. Make sure that your jaw is relaxed, and your lips pursed as you exhale. 
  • Repeat until you start feeling better.

Deep breathing exercises can help you feel better and ease your anxiety before your doctor’s appointment.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Mentally preparing for your appointment can help ease anxiety or bring it down to a more manageable level. Before your appointment, practice mindfulness meditation. You can start practicing days or even weeks before your appointment.

The goal of mindfulness meditation is to be in the present moment and aware of the sensations in your body and the world around you.

  • Take slow and deep breaths.
  • Notice what your arms are doing.
  • Keep your gaze soft.
  • Be aware when your mind starts wandering from your breath.
  • Allow your thoughts to float away like clouds. 
  • Bring your attention back to your breath.

While breathing, try focusing on a positive affirmation, such as:

  • I am happy. I am healing.
  • I am powerful. I am strong.
  • I can do anything. I got this.
  • I trust myself.

Mindfulness meditation can be an effective tool for reducing anxiety before your doctor’s appointment. In fact, a review of more than 200 studies on mindfulness found that the practice was especially effective for reducing anxiety, depression, and stress.

Bring a Friend

how to calm anxiety before a doctors appointment woman comforting her friend before an appointment

When we’re anxious or worried about something, it can be helpful to have a friend or loved one by our side. Consider bringing a friend along to your appointment. They can bring comfort and help you feel more at ease during the exam. 

Even if the friend cannot come into the office with you, you can bring them along for the ride and moral support. 

If you can bring your friend with you, they can provide support by helping you perform breathing exercises or give you solace if you receive some bad news. 

Listen to Music or Find a Distraction

It’s not always easy to face your fear head-on. To help ease your anxiety, try keeping yourself distracted. For example, listen to your favorite music on the ride to the doctor’s office to help take your mind off things and put you in a better mood.

When you’re in the waiting room, try distracting yourself by reading a book on your phone or chatting with friends over text.

Final Thoughts

It’s normal to have anxiety about a doctor’s appointment. Use the tips above to help calm your nerves and make your experience a little more pleasant. Many people find that simple breathing exercises help them get into a better headspace before leaving for their appointment.

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