I’ve had “white coat syndrome” since my early 20s. My blood pressure tends to surge at the doctor’s office. I don’t think I feel nervous. But deep inside, I must be. I can’t figure out why. My doctors and nurses are all very kind and easy to talk to.
I get frustrated because I can’t control my blood pressure in a medical setting. This is a concern, especially because I have hypertension and take medication for it. And it’s well controlled — at least at home.
When I have a doctor appointment, I do my best to relax on the way there. I take deep breaths, listen to music, and tell myself I’ll be fine and not to think about it. But that makes me more nervous and I can literally feel my numbers rising.
What am I so afraid of? My doctor has never gotten angry because it’s too high. He might look concerned, and we discuss how my numbers are at home. He takes it again at the end of the appointment, and it’s always in the normal range.
I’ve thought of different ways to help calm myself when I’m sitting in the waiting room. These techniques also help control my panic attacks.
The first tip is to use deep breathing and imagery. I imagine myself at the beach. I think about how it feels when grains of sand slide through my fingers. I smell suntan lotion, taste the salty water, see shades of blues and greens in the ocean, and hear waves crash on the shore.
The second idea is to repeat mantras while I’m deep breathing. I like mantras because they’re short and simple, and encourage me to be positive and mindful.
It feels like I’m breathing in calm and breathing out nervousness.
Here’s what I do. I take a deep breath in and at the same time, say (in my head) the first part of a mantra. Then I exhale slowly and say the second half.
Like this: take a deep breath and think, “Life is”… slowly exhale and think…”good.”
I see my doctor in a couple of months. Until then, I’m going to practice my breathing and mantra exercises.
I’ve recovered from panic disorder. I’m hopeful that one day I can say I no longer have “white coat syndrome.”
Not to worry. I got this.