I had never been an impatient child when I was young, but as I grew up to deal with adulting, I realized that patience might not be my strongest suit. You know the feeling of waiting anxiously in the lines at the bank, sitting in the waiting room of your doctor’s office, or just waiting for that important email? Yes, I am talking about that anticipation anxiety that you feel in your heart and body during similar situations.
The seemingly eternal ticking as time moves forward, the butterflies in your stomach, and the relentless loops of “what if” scenarios in your head – that’s what I’m talking about. In short, let’s call it anxiety waiting.
Good things might come to those who wait, but is the wait worth it when all it brings is nerves of heavy anticipation and that pit of anxiety in your stomach? The longer you spend being anxious over waiting, the more stressful you get, have you noticed?
Waiting and anxiety might not be a good mix because the longer you wait, the more anxious you get, and the more anxious you get, the longer the wait grates on your nerves, leaving you feeling nothing but stressed and distraught.
But, why is waiting so stressful? Why do we feel anxiety waiting, and how can we deal with anxiety waiting? Let’s find the answers to these questions below. Read on!
The Agony of Waiting: Why Waiting is So Stressful?
Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation: you’re sitting in a crowded waiting room, holding a book but unable to concentrate on the words because your mind and body are taut with anxious nerves. Sounds familiar? Well, you’re not the only one then. Waiting, while it seems such a small action, has a knack for maximizing your stress levels until you’re left with no thoughts other than negative ones.
One of the reasons why waiting drives us crazy is because of the uncertainty it brings with it. Our brains are wired to crave predictability and control, so when we don’t know what the wait will bring or when the wait will end, our stress response increases double-time.
In a study from the University of Chicago, it was found that our brain’s prefrontal cortex – the part responsible for decision-making and emotional regulation – goes haywire when it is kept in suspense.
On top of that, waiting often accompanies feelings of powerlessness and helplessness which can only worsen the anxiety we feel. When we wait, we – in a way – rely on other factors (such as the bank officer, the email response, etc.) to determine when this waiting will end. This lack of control over the situation can be distressing to many people.
Why Do We Get Anxious While Waiting?
It’s not the waiting that causes us to feel anxious; it’s also the underlying thought processes and physiological responses that make waiting such a nerve-wracking experience. When you’re stuck in wait, your mind takes great pleasure in taking you on a wild ride of catastrophizing, “what if” scenarios and more.
We often tend to imagine the worst-case scenarios in our minds when we’re stuck in waiting. Will the email be a rejection or an offer letter? Will the test results be bad? What if your partner is breaking up with you? This thought process – almost always negative – can put us in distress and a state of dread.
Another reason we get anxious while waiting is because of time dilation. Time seems to stretch endlessly when we’re waiting, which only worsens the distress and discomfort. There have been various studies that show the perception of time can become distorted when we’re anxious, making minutes seem like hours.
Anxiety isn’t just a mental, emotional, or behavioral state; it’s physical too. So when you’re waiting anxiously, you might experience physical discomfort and symptoms of anxiety such as racing thoughts, faster heartbeat, sweaty palms, nausea, or – more commonly – the butterflies in your stomach. These physical symptoms and sensations can make you feel more anxious and nervous as the time of waiting stretches.
So, How to Deal With Anxiety Waiting?
Now that you know why waiting can be such an anxious experience, read on to learn some quick, zen-inducing techniques to keep waiting anxiety at bay;
You can keep anxiety waiting at bay by keeping yourself distracted. You can bring a book along when you’re waiting, listen to some soothing music, or even allow yourself to daydream a little. Having your mind engage in something other than worry can help you pass the time pleasant;y and anxiety-free.
2.Try Mindfulness Meditation
I am sure you’re aware of the amazing benefits of mindfulness, and while it may seem such a typical piece of advice, it’s worth giving it a shot. To keep yourself from anxiously waiting, you can try to focus on your breaths, the sensation of your feet on the ground, the sounds around you, the sights you see, and more. Mindfulness can help you stay grounded in the present moment, reducing anxiety and unnecessary worrying.
3.Challenge Negative Thoughts
You can also challenge the negative thoughts and voices that you hear in your mind when you’re anxiously waiting. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” You’ll find that the reality of the situation is not as catastrophic as your imagination makes it sound and look. Trust the process and don’t let negative thoughts cloud your reality.
4.Engage With Other Wait-ee
Another amazing technique that can help you deal with anxiety waiting is engaging with others around you. You can strike up a conversation with another waiting person or as I like to call – Wait-ee. When you share your waiting experience with others or hear about theirs, it can lighten the mood and also keep your mind away from anxious thoughts. Two birds with one stone, right?
“Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” — Joyce Meyer
Anxiety waiting is somewhat of a universal experience that can leave you feeling like you’re stuck in a cycle of waiting and anxiety, forever. Knowing why waiting drives us crazy and why waiting is so stressful can help you stay zen and keep the anxiety beast away – at least for your sanity’s sake.
So, the next time you find yourself trapped in the feeling of waiting for something to happen or anxious anticipation, remember the above-listed techniques. Employing these techniques might just turn the tides in your favor.
I hope this article helped you understand what anxiety waiting is and how to deal with anxiety waiting. Let me know what you think in the comments below.