Fearless Health

Worrying excessively about our well-being can do us more harm than good. Here’s how to keep your health concerns in perspective.

Illustration of woman walking over river

Most nights, my family and I sit down to colorful, plant-powered evening meals. But every so often, I like to have grilled bratwurst and a tall beer for dinner. And I savor them.

Before you raise an eyebrow at this, I’d like to mention that it was my breast-cancer diagnosis nearly 10 years ago that inspired me to relish these indulgences rather than obsess over whether they might someday kill me.

Cancer was something I’d dreaded for a long time. Yet it was a wake-up call.

As I emerged from treatment with my health restored, I realized that my careful diet and lifestyle choices up to that moment had largely been an attempt to avoid . . . well, cancer, among other things. Also the heart disease that runs in my family. Diabetes. Dementia. It was a long, scary list.

In other words, I hadn’t been making my healthy decisions from a life-embracing perspective, but from a place of terror. At that point, kale and collard greens were less vegetables to be enjoyed than talismans to ward off evil.

Oddly enough, cancer helped me let go of some of my fears. In facing that nightmare-come-true, I realized that I wanted to live more boldly and joyfully. My prior attitude of self-denial may have reduced certain risks, but it hadn’t (and couldn’t have) eliminated them all.

Still, in order to more fully experience the life I had been fighting so hard to protect, I needed to adjust my mindset. These are the strategies I learned in that process. My hope is that they can help you learn to more fearlessly embrace your health, one day at a time.

is an Experience Life contributing editor.

Illustrations by Christopher O’Leary

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