Until last month, I mostly worried about earthquakes, tsunamis and getting nuked by North Korea.
They were splendid prompts for apprehension, since they fall in my specialty area: things I can't control.
But now, with the flu epidemic going full tilt, I have shifted focus. Natural and political disasters have taken a back seat to the new random terror: H3N2.
With abysmal reports of misery and even death and the end not yet in sight, the flu provides a brand-new playground for worry.
I know, because I have Googled its every aspect in an effort to grab some sliver of control -- like knowing I've got it or, even better, how to prevent it.
Symptoms? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trying to be helpful, has reported that if you're about to be doomed, you will often feel some or all of these: fever or feeling feverish/chills (except maybe not fever); cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headache; fatigue; vomiting; and diarrhea (except maybe not in adults).
Bottom line, sometimes you will have these and sometimes you won't.
And sometimes the same symptoms will occur if you just have a cold.
To its credit, the CDC has provided a chart that helps you figure out, based on the symptoms, which is more likely and a list of developments that should send you straight to the doc.
The cold vs. flu chart allows optimists to talk themselves into the fact that it's only a cold, at least for a little while, until -- wham! -- the slight or uncommon symptoms from the cold column migrate to the flu column.
And there you are.
According to my other info source -- Facebook -- this can happen quickly, as with the church friend who reportedly experienced a throat tickle Monday, thought it was a cold but woke up Tuesday with a fever and full body aches, then went to urgent care, where she "blacked out and fell over onto the floor."
The happy news was that it earned her some antiviral medication, which the CDC recommends "as soon as possible" if you're a person of a certain age or high risk.
The unhappy news was that it fueled my "what-if monster."
As in, what if this happens while you're driving?
And what if it happens if you're not?
And what if you have the flu but don't think it's the flu and don't get the medicine in time?
All this has fueled a bizarre sort of hypervigilance. I have made it my business to monitor every possible symptom so I can rush out in time to get the drugs.
On a recent evening, I felt tired and found myself analyzing whether I felt more tired than I usually do at 10 p.m.
My back ached a little, too. But then, my back does that sometimes.
The next morning, my left elbow felt a little achy.
And before I knew it, I was wondering if I was about to go into full-fledged body aches that are more stunning than usual after I've been to the gym.
I also had a headache, but voila!
It disappeared with a migraine pill, which is usually the case with stress.
Of course, besides monitoring symptoms, I am paying strict attention to the CDC's suggestions for preventing all this in the first place.
Besides getting a flu vaccine (done) and washing my hands to a ridiculous degree, I am trying to "avoid close contact with sick people."
This is a little tricky, because the CDC also reports healthy adults can be contagious at least a day before their symptoms develop.
But in truth, this is the luckiest part of the epidemic.
For the sake of prevention, I'm staying away from long meetings with healthy adults, especially the ones that drag on.
You can't be too careful with your health.
Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at PatSnyderOnline.com.