Updated: Feb 23
From sciatica to minor body aches, Generation X deals with many daily aches and pains. While most of us learn how to manage these issues, life takes a drastic shift when you’re dealing with a major health issue.
Recently, I experienced a health issue that scared the crap out of me. I am lucky that it was short-lived, but I realized that I made some mistakes that cost me a lot of mental peace. Mentally, I dove off the deep end, and I don’t want that to happen to you. First, let’s look at some current research findings of what’s in store for Gen Xers as we age in adulthood.
A study published in the BMC Public Health journal revealed that among Generation X, those raised in poorer families are at greater risk of having multiple long-term health problems in their late 40s. The study was conducted among British adults between 46-48. The researchers defined multiple health conditions as having two or more long-term health conditions, where at least one condition was physically related. Although the study didn’t clearly define “poorer families,” the takeaway is striking.
Gen Xers should expect to face increased health challenges as they reach late adulthood. So, how do you avoid having a total freak out when you get frightening news about your health? In this post, I’ll share insights to help my fellow Gen Xers who may be dealing with their own health challenges.
My goal is to help you gain mental peace as you’re trying to make sense of all of the thoughts and emotions invading your mind. I’ll also explain:
*The common health challenges Generation X faces in late adulthood.
*Mindset traps you’ll experience while dealing with your health issues.
*3 simple techniques you can use to manage your mind so you can remain focused on improving your health.
What are the common health challenges Gen Xers face as they age?
Gen X is expected to have a longer lifespan than other generations. Still, we’re also likely to live in poorer health, according to the current research. Cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, cancer, and mental health are the major concerns for Generation X.
Let’s break these down.
*Cardiovascular disease includes coronary artery disease, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, stroke, and congenital heart disease.
*Metabolic disease includes high blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes.
*Cancer includes common forms of cancer like prostate and breast cancer.
*Mental health issues represent conditions like depression and anxiety.
Receiving news of a life-threatening health condition causes a tidal wave of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that leave you in a dark, mental space. And it’s impossible to focus on healing when your mind is jumping from one bad thought to the next. That’s why I want to share 3 mindset traps that worsen your health challenges and show you how to overcome them so you can stay focused on healing.
What common mindset traps must Gen Xers overcome when dealing with health issues?
As a coach, I help my clients overcome mindset traps that block them from enjoying the freedoms they want in life. Mindset traps are counter-productive ways of thinking that prevent individuals from achieving their desired outcomes. When it comes to mindset traps, there are a few usual suspects I recognize in my clients and my own thinking.
The first mindset trap is fortune-telling. Fortune-telling occurs when you make up your mind that something terrible will happen in the future, no matter the actions you take. When it comes to dealing with health problems, fortune-telling can be devastating. It sends you into a state of helplessness, where you believe your fate is already set.
You can see how this is counterproductive to healing your mind and body if you’re dealing with a health crisis. Fortune telling can worsen mental health disorders like depression and anxiety if left unchecked. However, the next mindset trap is equally devastating as fortune-telling.
Filtering involves editing out the positive aspects of a situation and overly emphasizing negative aspects. Think about this like the idiomatic expression, “Throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” When you’re filtering, you unconsciously block your view of alternative views of your health problems and focus solely on the negative aspects.
If you’re experiencing a significant health challenge right now, you probably feel overwhelmed. That’s why it’s crucial to recognize filtering because it keeps you fixed in a pessimistic attitude. Research has shown that pessimists are “19 percent more likely to die prematurely.” Thus, creating space for optimism during your health crisis plays an essential part in your care and recovery, including your psychological health.
The third mindset trap is catastrophizing. And I believe this is the mother of all mindset traps. Catastrophizing is so devious because it goes unnoticed. This mindset trap makes your brain latch onto the worst possible scenario. Let’s say your doctor performs a routine check and notices that your test results are off. He refers you to a specialist for a follow-up to get a second opinion.
Instead of taking the wait-and-see approach, you instantly believe the thought that you’re dying. This is why catastrophizing is so harmful to you. It doesn’t help you see the alternative perspectives. Like the other mindset traps, catastrophizing will impact your decisions about your treatment and care options.
The goal is to recognize when these mindset traps take over your brain. I want you to learn how to practice fixing these mindset traps, so you can direct all of your mental efforts to beating your health challenges. Now that you understand how these mindset traps work let’s look at a few techniques to overcome them.
How can Gen Xers manage their minds while dealing with a health issue?
An awareness of mindset traps is only one part of the solution. You also need a strategy to reset your brain to focus on your next steps. I’ve got a TAME YOUR BRAIN called the Triple R strategy to turn down the noise that takes over your mind when you learn about a potentially threatening health condition.
The first R stands for relax. Have you ever seen an animal stuck in a trap and noticed that the more it thrashes around, the more exhausted it becomes? This is a helpful metaphor for understanding what’s happening in your brain when you receive news of a health issue.
Once your brain’s fight or flight response is activated, it causes you to use energy in ways that don’t always get the results you need. You need mental clarity to make sound decisions about your next step. The deeper you fall into mindset traps, the more you exhaust your brain. And having a tired brain is not going to help you deal with your health matters effectively.
Therefore, the first thing you must do is release mental stress and anxiety. I accomplish this by bringing myself back to the present movement. I focus on something in my environment, like how the branches of a tree sway in the wind or watching the iguanas sun themselves in the parking lot that faces my apartment building.
I know this sounds very touchy-feely, but it works every time for me. It’s one of my go-to techniques because it quiets my mind and works better than meditation. Once you’ve stopped the swirl of thoughts and emotions from clouding your judgment, you’re ready for the next R in the technique.
The second R stands for review, which means reviewing the facts associated with your health situation. Sometimes, we let our thoughts trick us into a false sense of reality. That’s what’s so dangerous about the mindset traps. To help you break your cycle of faulty thinking, you need facts and evidence. Recall some of your past health experiences, and ask yourself if they turned out as bad as you first thought.
Surely, there will be circumstances where things don’t turn out as you’d hoped. But this doesn’t mean that you’re destined for the same fate this time around. Identifying those situations where your brain forced you to believe the worst but reality proved otherwise is the best way to conquer the mindset traps created in your brain.
The act of having a thought doesn’t make it true!
Once you find evidence to support different thoughts, you’re ready for the final R in this approach.
The third R in this strategy stands for reframe. You’re probably familiar with this term since it’s widely used in many contexts. In this context, I want you to reframe your thoughts to use the evidence you gathered in the previous step to intentionally create different thoughts. The objective is to create neutral thoughts.
Let’s go back to my example of your doctor referring you to a specialist for additional testing. Here are some examples of neutral thoughts based on that example.
*Seeing the specialist will finally give me the answers to the questions I have about my condition.
*My test results are off, and my doctor wants an expert opinion.
*Something is going on here, but I’m not sure exactly what. I have to wait and see.
Try creating some neutral thoughts of your own until you find one that sticks. The idea is to choose thoughts that put you in a mental space that promotes action rather than falling into self-pity and despair.
You can use the Triple R technique in any context, not just for health issues. So try it, and let me know how it works for you.
It’s essential to understand how to keep your brain from going astray when you’re facing thoughts of mortality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t freak out. That's an acceptable response. However, given the research about our generation's health challenges, you must understand how to manage your mind.
The key takeaway is that no one really prepares Gen Xers to deal with a health crisis. Managing your thoughts requires learning how to recognize mindset traps like fortune-telling, filtering, and catastrophizing. This allows you to reframe your perspective and helps you to steady your brain to focus on what you need to get well. Then you’ll be ready to do the important work of reprogramming your brain so you can manage your recovery and self-care.
Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get more help with creating a mindset that helps you remain focused on overcoming your health challenges. You can contact me by email or on social media.
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