Normal, everyday waiting — in line at the coffee shop or grocery store, waiting for the office elevator — can crank up our stress levels. So when something is wrong with our health, the wait for a medical appointment or test results plus not knowing how things are going to turn out can really make our stress skyrocket.
Feeling impatient, frustrated, angry, anxious or depressed is all quite normal. However, if you or a loved one is also experiencing unpleasant symptoms, then the stress is even worse. And it can make you feel like giving up and simply not bothering any longer with more appointments and tests.
To make matters even more intense, this extreme level of stress may come with its own physical symptoms or make existing ones worse:
- Back pain
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heart beat
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach upset
- Lack of focus
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Personality changes
In fact, the stress of not knowing what’s wrong can be so severe that it can actually be worse than if you’ve been diagnosed with something serious or are in need of a potentially risky medical procedure.
But that’s enough bad news while you’re waiting for any news at all. Let’s turn to how to beat the stress of waiting.
What you can do
The first thing you need to do to cope with this period of uncertainty is to accept that you simply can’t speed things up. Once you stop focusing on the waiting, you can take positive steps to deal with the heightened stress that you’re suffering, including:
- Exercise — physical activity can help lessen anxiety and depression and improve your overall mood.
- Get proper nutrition — don’t rely on short-lived sugar rushes to help you cope; rather, stick to a well-balanced diet.
- Communicate, share and get support — share your stress and concerns with family, friends, and see your healthcare provider if you think you need a professional to help you cope.
- Try relaxation exercises including meditation, deep breathing, stretching, yoga, tai chi — this focuses on helping you relax and improving your oxygen flow and can involve deep breathing, stretching, repetitive exercise motions, and visualization techniques.
- Volunteer — or other activities that can help give you something else to focus on.
Lastly, it’s also important that you maintain a positive outlook and do not create the potential for more health problems by doing things such as drinking excessively, smoking, using drugs or overeating.