“So, do you have a job yet?” my parents once again asked during our ritual, weekly call to which I replied, “Not yet.” Given the latest research on waiting, I now understand why my folks were anxious. After all, the outcome was out of their control, coupled with the fact both were concerned for my welfare.
Which brings me to ask, how well do you deal with uncertainty when you simply have to wait for news? For example, when you have to wait to hear if your child was accepted into a particular school or to get back medical tests? Do you find yourself spending endless mind time ruminating and thinking of worst-case scenarios, or do you let it go until you know?
Turns out, the most difficult part of waiting is at the start and end of a waiting period. Research subjects who were less anxious during the waiting process also rated higher in optimism and lower in defensive pessimism, which is the tendency to assume the worst when waiting. But what if you’re one of those worriers, or you have to deal with one? Here’s what I suggest.
1. Speak Your Truth. For example, if questions from well-intentioned family and friends increase your anxiety, let them know that you would prefer they not ask about the results. Assure them you will let them know as soon as you have information. This is the tactic I used with my own folks back in my late 20s. You see, I had made a conscious choice to take a few months off between jobs, given I had moved from city to city for the prior two years while working for sales gurus Tom Hopkins and Brian Tracy. While I generally wasn’t anxious about my job situation, their questioning always created stress. Time to speak my truth: “Mom and Dad, I have shared with you that I’m taking some time off, and I know this makes you anxious and concerned. You’ve made it very clear through our conversations how much you want me to be employed. Count on the fact that when I do find a position, you two will be the first to know. In the meantime, I’d prefer you not ask about my job situation. Would you both honor my request?”
2. Express vs. Suppress. Pull out a journal and spend five to ten minutes purging your concerns. Letting out your emotions, rather than simply telling yourself not to worry, may sound counterintuitive but it works. Research shows it’s almost as if you’ve released and slain the beast. Not a paper to pen person? Call a dear friend and say, “I’m concerned about (blank), and I need a friend like you to just listen and tell me everything’s going to be okay.”
3. Remind your Mind. Take a moment and remind yourself that you have overcome every challenge in your life thus far. Take a look in the mirror and say, “To date I (we) have handled every situation that has come my (our) way, and I (we) will handle this too, no matter the outcome.” I suggest you also remind yourself of what brings you joy, whether that’s gardening, playing a musical instrument or engaging in another hobby you love, volunteering, or going out with friends. Get busy doing one of those activities.
All of life is uncertain. When you’re in that limbo period of waiting, after you’ve done everything you can, you’ll need to accept the uncertainty for a time, maintaining hope that it will turn out exactly as it should and trusting that you have the strength to meet any challenges that arise.