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Powering Thru Waiting for Test Results

You’re waiting to find out if the results of a new scan or blood test. Or maybe you are waiting to see if you can go to a new specialist. Now you have to wait and you can feel your anxiety rising with each passing minute.

People always have to wait for something, whether it be a job interview, college application, or results from a medical test.

But what if you have to wait even longer because the results of these tests or treatments or appointments could mean the difference between health and struggle, or define your life’s possibilities? How are you going to get through the wait? In this blog, we shortly discuss how to power through the waiting game.

Believe it or not, scientists have studied what makes people good (and bad…) at waiting.

Kate Sweeney is a professor at the University of California at Riverside. She studied 50 law school graduates who had just taken the bar exam and were waiting to hear whether they had passed the big test to be a lawyer. One thing she found is that people worried most right after the test – they couldn’t distract themselves from thinking about it. Also, she found that right before people got their results, they were the most pessimistic – as they were about to learn whether they had passed the test, that’s when they were the surest they had failed.

Sweeney also learned which strategies actually helped people feel less anxious while they waited.

Contrary to what feels more natural, distraction doesn’t work. Distraction is anything you do to temporarily take your attention away from strong emotion. Like watching tv, visiting a place you like, listen to music, etc. Sweeny found that it was as if intentionally doing something distracting, like going to a baseball game or playing a new video game, made people think even more about the thing they were worried about.

What did work was downplaying the importance of the test.

People who imagined all the ways they would be okay even if they failed the test felt less anxiety while waiting. Sweeney also plans to test the strategy of mindfulness meditation. Maybe by working to focus on yourself in the moment, you could stop worrying about what might happen in the future.

And there was also good news for people who just couldn’t help stressing out!

People who were the most worried were also the most okay after they got the results – they were most relieved when they passed the test and most motivated to turn around and try again if they failed.

Consider trying two things if you’re worried about your test results or treatment.

First, try to consider how you would be able to cope even though the exam does not go as planned. Second, understand that worrying is normal; it will help you feel more prepared for the outcome, whether it be good or bad. And, after the emotion has subsided, you’ll attempt to handle it with another talent, such as expressive journaling. Watch this video to see how to start with expressive writing with shadows edge game.


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