Hurry up and wait.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Waiting for test results, waiting for an acceptance letter, waiting for a job offer. Even waiting for a child, a loved one, a relationship, someone to text us back… There are all kinds of waiting. And no one is immune to its impact on our mind.
I’ve often found myself stuck in the purgatory of the three W’s: waiting, wishing, and worrying. Waiting for a response, wishing for the desired outcome, worried about a rejection. It’s a relentless cycle, and so easy to get caught up in the drama of it all.
Cue the panicky thoughts. When will I hear back? What if I don’t get the result I want? What will I do? Why is it taking so long? Don’t they know how important this is to me?!
To help with the cycle of waiting, wishing, and worrying, try to use the time as an opportunity for clarity. Presence. Patience. And to let it all go.
(Okay, that last one is pretty difficult if you’re a control freak like me).
But there are some things you can do to make waiting a little bit easier. If waiting is driving you crazy, here’s how to quiet your thoughts and shake hands with either outcome to make waiting less worrisome.
Acknowledge that you really, really want this
Embrace your all-consuming need for a certain result. It might seem counterintuitive, but it helps to acknowledge that this matters. Underneath all the stomach-knots and what-ifs is a decision that means something to you.
What does that mean? Well, I wanted to be accepted into grad school—but underneath that, I want a profession that focuses on helping others. And helping others is something I can do no matter what the result.
We can’t magically conjure up the answer we want. Usually the decision lies with someone else or on circumstances we can’t control. But we can let the whole experience show us what our desires are, beyond whatever it is we’re waiting for.
Plan for happiness in every outcome — even the worst one
For those who want to have more control, I have good news: prepare a plan B. Or even a plan C and D. What will you do if the result isn’t what you wanted? Can you turn it into an opportunity rather than a disaster?
A fancy term for this is “consequence mitigation”—anticipating bad news, planning for it, and imagining what your life will look like one way or the other. This might not ease your worries during the waiting period, but it gives you a sense of control over the outcome.
Try to manage your expectations. If all your hopes and dreams are in one basket, of course you’re going to stress about it! The option you want isn’t always the option you’ll get, and that’s okay. There’s a silver lining to be found.
Channel your energy into something else (AKA: distraction)
Uncertainty is all-consuming, but we can’t really do anything while we’re waiting. Whenever you feel like you’re going down the rabbit hole of waiting, wishing, and worrying, switch over to distraction mode. It’s a quick and painless way to take all that nervous energy and channel it into something else.
Make it something enjoyable and energy-expending — take up a boxing class, make a delicious recipe, have really good sex, go for a long walk with a podcast, have an impromptu solo dance party. It’s a simple solution, yet effective (even if only for an hour or so). Give yourself some reprieve and try to get out of your head.
Focus on the present — waiting gets you stuck on the future
Sometimes I read articles that say, “Get present,” and I disconnect. But don’t skip over this just yet. To put it into perspective, waiting for something means you’re always thinking, planning, and worrying about the future. You’re ruminating. And ruminating takes you out of the life you’re living right now and sticks you in the cycle of wondering what’s coming next.
So, instead, get present by taking a breath. But seriously, do it with me. Breathe in… 1, 2, 3… Breathe out… 1, 2, 3…
Momentary peace of mind? I’ll take it.
Talk to people who love and care about you
No one needs to go through waiting alone. Gather your friends and family around you for support. It’s really a win-win. If you receive the news you want, you’ll have a team to celebrate with. And if not, you’ll have people to lean on.
When I was faced with rejection, I called my mom and bawled my eyes out. Then I hosted a party, popped a bottle of champagne, and danced until dawn with my friends. It’s easy to celebrate your success, but it takes a little extra strength to celebrate your failures—do it anyway.
Don’t hide from the feeling of relief
After the agony of waiting, you’ll most likely feel relieved once you hear the result: good or bad. After all the pressure you’ve put on yourself and the scenarios you’ve conjured up, once you have the answer… it’s over. It feels good to know. But before you start preparing for what comes next, enjoy the feeling of relief for a bit. The waiting is done.
Remember, your mind won’t always quiet down or be able to shake off the anxious, worrying thoughts. Distractions might not work and no matter how many plans you create, you’ll probably still be unprepared for the outcome.
The sting of rejection or bad news is painful. Go through that grieving process if it happens. But no matter what, if you’re worrying, wishing, and waiting — you care. And caring about something so much it hurts is kind of beautiful in and of itself.
Either way, either outcome, you are amazing. So have that dance party, already!