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The Waiting Season - How to Cope

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… February 26, 2024
Image of hands over a laptop with a watch on left wrist. Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Waiting for news about our future, whether that be about grad or med school, a new job, or a health diagnosis, can be hard to tolerate. With it often comes feelings of anxiety, fear of the unknown, or worry about potential news we’re not hoping for. These feelings are often intense and highly uncomfortable so we can find ourselves coping with them by distracting, numbing, avoiding, or constantly checking our devices for any new information that may have come in the last few minutes. This can sometimes feel like a new-found anxiety. But instead of disconnecting from those unhelpful responses, we often find ourselves pulled in even tighter towards them because our persistent pattern of worry and checking becomes an allusion of control, giving small reinforcements that subdue our anxiety or fear, even if only momentarily. We all know this is not helpful, and in some instances it even causes significant strains on wellbeing, relationships, and productivity at work. So, what can we do better manage the discomfort that comes with waiting for important news:

  1. Focus on your locus on control. Note where you have control and where you don’t. When you notice yourself naturally being pulled toward the worry of what you can’t control, come back to yourself and practice statements such as: “I may not like what I’m feeling right now but this will pass and I will get through this.” Ask yourself: “What is in my control that I can shift my attention toward in this moment?” It is normal to feel at a loss when asking ourselves this question. However, this  can be something as simple as how we’re caring for our mind, body, spirit and relationships

  2. Connect with supportive people. Engage with people you see and treat you as a whole human; not someone who focuses on your work, productivity, or the outcome of what you’re waiting on.

  3. Prescribe yourself "worry time". Schedule in deliberate time where you allow your mind to worry and think through the worst-case scenarios that keep you up at night. Journal about these thoughts or share them openly with a trusted other but save them for a specific time and place. You will find that if you stick to your prescribed time that the persistent worrying throughout the day that hinders attention and focus may decrease. 

  4. Rest, nourish, and move your body everyday. Schedule in and prioritize these actions the same way that you schedule important meetings in your workday. There are on-going benefits of prioritizing your wellbeing in this way.

  5. Reconnect with the present through a PAUSE, RESET, NOURISH Exercise below or Grounding Skills
    • Pause - Check in with your internal experiences or how your body is feeling at the present moment.  Practice square breathing, 7-11 breathing, 4-7-8 breathing to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. 
    • Reset - Actively do something to help you feel steadier, more calm, confident or focused on your next task. Be kind to yourself and remember that waiting is difficult and unsettling at times.
    • Nourish - Soak in something positive that replenishes your mind-body-heart-soul-or spirit. Turn your focus towards something that helps you remember your own strength and resilience or reminds you to take time to tend to yourself. You may ask yourself, “What do I need to nourish myself right now?”

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