Coping with The Waiting Game
Recently I experienced something that I call “the waiting game.” The waiting game is what I have labeled the experience having to wait on either finding out or doing something that you feel is important. During this waiting period there are often unknowns, and, as a result, there is uncertainty. In my case, I was waiting on test results from a doctor, however, the waiting game could involve waiting on anything important to you, from waiting for the guy/girl you like to finally get in touch with you, to waiting to talk through a difficult topic with your significant other, to waiting to find out if you got the job or passed an exam. Life is full of waiting games! Sometimes the wait is bearable and you can put it in the back of your mind quite easily, whereas other times the wait can be a highly stressful and painful experience. My experience was more the latter, and I promised myself that once I made it through the wait, I would blog about how I coped during this time, in the hope that my sharing would be helpful for you too.
Here is what I did to help get myself through that tough time:
1) Acknowledge the difficult feelings, sit with them, and breathe
~ When you’re feeling anxious, frustrated, sad, angry, helpless (or any other emotion that comes up) instead of allowing the feelings to overwhelm you, acknowledge the feelings. Take a moment to pause, label whatever emotions you are having, and allow yourself to have them. Sit with the discomfort while breathing through it. I personally like to use 4-4-6 breathing- breathe in for 4, hold for 4 and out for 6, to help relax my body. If possible, I’ll do the breathing while in child’s pose or any seated position of comfort. If you desire, you can take the breathing a step further and turn it into a meditation.
1-A) Journal about those feelings
~ Writing helps me process my thoughts and feelings. Once I’ve acknowledged my feelings, writing them down helps me accept them and provides me with a sense of relief.
2) Let all of your parts have a voice
~While you’re waiting, there will inevitably be a part of you that brings your thoughts to the worst-case-scenario outcome. Then, naturally, there will be other parts that don’t, and are more optimistic…Acknowledging all of the thoughts and feelings that your various parts have can be helpful. Instead of fighting the different thoughts/feelings, allow them all to be present, knowing that there is more than one potential outcome as you wait, therefore it is helpful to simply acknowledge them all. Your mind at any given moment, may focus on one outcome. Instead of fighting that, acknowledge the possibility, but also acknowledge the other possibility(ies), and then move on with your day. If you’re feeling too overwhelmed to move on, see # 1 and then # 3.
3) Distractions (healthy ones)
~ If you find yourself ruminating, distract yourself in a healthy manner. Take a walk, go to the gym, take a yoga class, hike, take a dance class (my #1 distraction of choice!), listen to music, spend time with friends/family, watch some tv, read, clean your house…you get the idea. J Notice that the aforementioned distractions are on the healthier side. It’s important, especially when feeling emotional, to steer clear of the distractions that may lead to more harm, for example, using/abusing any substance including alcohol, binge eating, mindless shopping, attention seeking.
~ Mindfulness is about being present in the moment. Being mindful is about doing your best to stay present in the moment that you’re in, and if/when your mind wanders, slowly bringing it back to the present moment- the conversation you’re engaged in, the book you’re reading, your current surroundings. When you catch yourself thinking about the past or the future (the what ifs), compassionately remind yourself that you are not there now, and re-engage in your “now” moment.
5) Control what you can: Knowledge is power
~ Waiting can lead to an out-of-control feeling, because during this time, things are somewhat out of your control and this can be disconcerting. For me, as I waited, it was important to me that I control the little that I could, so typical of me, I did research. I researched all of the different options that I could have based on the potential outcomes. At first I spent more time doing this than I should have, and so I learned to limit my “data gathering” to a certain amount of time per day/week. Data gathering helped me gain a small sense of control, learning as much as I could about the given topic, knowing that when I finally had the results, I could choose how to proceed.
~ Focus on all things you can control- healthy eating, sleeping, exercising, self-care. Doing what you can to stay healthy during this waiting game, helps.
~ This one is crucial… Rely on those who will provide you with the most support- those whom you trust. Share your feelings with them if you desire to, or just spend time with them and be in the presence of their comforting company. If your support is lacking, you can, of course, reach out to a therapist or any other type of professional support that you wish.
I hope that these coping mechanisms can be a small source of comfort to you during a potentially difficult time.
Wishing you calm and clarity.