This article is written by dr. M. Mansoor Majeed.
Waiting for test results can be daunting, and you’ll likely experience bouts of worry, anxiety, and fear during the waiting period. But it helps to remember that anxiety is normal, stay busy with engaging tasks that you enjoy, avoid negative thoughts, resist turning to Google for answers, and be open about your anxiety with friends and relatives.
I remember the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic when I realized I had been exposed to a COVID-positive person. Despite being a doctor, my levels of anxiety and fear were touching their peaks. I spent those days waiting for the test results in self-isolation. To cope with anxiety and stress, listening to music, reading books, chatting with friends, and watching videos were greatly helpful.
People with chronic conditions are no strangers to this anxiety, but there are things you can do to make the waiting period easier. Here are some tips and techniques that will help you manage your anxiety and feel more at ease during this hard process.
1. Remember that Anxiety is Normal
It’s absolutely normal to feel anxiety and fear while you wait for your test results. The diagnosis and management of many illnesses requires lab testing and clinical evaluation. And while undergoing the test or scan can be stressful enough, the period of waiting for your results can be even harder.
Whether a medical professional obtained a blood or urine sample, or ordered an X-ray to assess your current state of health, acknowledging any fear or anxiety you’re experiencing right now is the first step to processing it in a healthy way.
2. Engage in Relaxing and Joyful Activities
Feelings of stress and anxiety while waiting for the test results can make you become restless and fidget with objects around you. Stress and anxiety may also prevent you from focusing on routine activities such as cooking, studying, and reading.
Lack of focus and concentration further exacerbates anxiety and stress associated with the waiting process. Engaging in relaxing and enjoyable activities can help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Here are 30 things you can try, and some of the most old-school techniques are the most effective:
TV and Books
Watching your favorite shows and reading books or novels can help you unwind and relax, as focusing on these things can move your anxiety and worry to the back of your mind instead of keeping it front and center. Make yourself a hot cup of tea, grab a novel, and sit by the fireplace or in a lawn chair, depending on the weather.
Gardening can also be useful and have a positive effect on your mental health. Not only are plants pleasant to look at, but gardening is a great physical activity that can release endorphins and give you a sense of accomplishment. These will help minimize anxiety and stress while you wait for your test results.
Meet Up with Friends and Family
The waiting period can be isolating, and quality time with friends and family is a great way to boost serotonin and remind yourself that you aren’t alone. If you can’t meet in person, Skype or Zoom are great options, and they can connect you with people even if they’re far away.
Mental health conversations with family members can be challenging. In times of hardship, it is crucial to have relationships with friends and family to rely on. Our friends can provide the listening ear, supportive shoulder, and nonjudgmental perspective that we need.
In addition, they can raise our sense of belonging, boost self-assurance, and lower tension and worry.
Exercise and Yoga
Exercise and yoga can help you relax and reduce stress and anxiety levels. While performing physical activities, especially if you have a chronic condition, be careful that you don’t overdo it. Also, getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables instead of falling into an unhealthy diet or overindulging in alcohol can help you maintain proper mental and physical health.
3. Say Goodbye to Negative Thoughts
Many of us imagine the worst possible outcomes while waiting for test results. This and accompanying negative thoughts can further elevate the levels of stress and anxiety that you are experiencing.
To control these thoughts and prevent them from taking a toll on your mental health, identify them when they enter your mind and don’t let yourself linger on them. It’s easy to catastrophize situations or think about only good or bad outcomes but nothing in between. Avoid making assumptions and conclusions.
Use helpful and realistic statements to replace your negative thoughts. Feelings of stress and anxiety while waiting for your test results may culminate as mental illnesses in the long run. Adapting a positive thinking approach helps lower the risk of developing mental health disorders.
Become your own cheerleader and be consistent while you work on changing your thoughts.
4. Stay Away from Google
It’s tempting to Google your symptoms or a disease you’re concerned about when you notice any changes in your health. This can take you down a rabbit hole of worst-case scenarios. Many diseases share common symptoms, and even in serious diseases many of the worst symptoms can be statistically rare.
Googling these things can lead to confusion and obsessive thoughts, and they can convince you of things that are not based in reality. This creates needless stress and anxiety.
For example, after searching on the internet a patient of mine came to me convinced they had a disease that disappeared ages ago from our region. They were deeply anxious about what would happen to them, although these fears were unfounded.
The internet can be a great resource for information, especially when it comes to medical conditions, but first discuss your symptoms and possible associated disorders with your doctor, and leave diagnosis to medical professionals.
Your doctor is aware of your previous medical history, comorbidities, and related symptoms, and they are much better at assessing your healthy status than Google.
5. Share Your Feelings
Sharing your feelings with your partner, family, and friends and expressing your concerns with these individuals can help lower stress, fear, and anxiety. You may be surprised how relaxed you feel after getting these things off your chest.
Additionally, various on-ground and online communities can help individuals with chronic illnesses connect and share their experiences — whether it’s waiting for test results or other aspects of living with a chronic condition. Who can understand what you’re going through better than those who have been through it themselves?
These communities bring people together and provide individuals with valuable social support. While these communities can be overwhelming initially, you can engage at a level that you’re comfortable with as you connect with individuals who have a positive thinking approach and healthily support you.
- Consult your doctor to discuss your symptoms and the lab tests conducted.
- Refrain from Googling symptoms and diseases, and instead talk to your doctor or other health professionals who are aware of your previous medical history and presenting complaints.
- Engage in relaxing activities such as reading books and performing yoga.
- Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet and make sure you get enough sleep.
- Find online or on-ground communities where you can share your feelings and learn from the experiences of others.
- Eliminate negative thoughts and adopt a positive thinking approach.
While new lab techniques, tests, and digital imaging have reduced the length of time you have to wait for your results, the wait can be very difficult. Follow these tips to help you think more positively, stay active, avoid internet rabbit holes that lead to needless worry, and find support that will make this experience easier.
Author Bio: Dr. M. Mansoor Majeed is a practicing doctor, medical writer, and researcher. He is currently working as an assistant professor at a prestigious health sciences institute. He is a published author of more than 25 research papers and has presented his research work at many conferences in different parts of the world. Besides this, he is passionate about traveling and reading books. He loves to spend time with his family and friends. Reach him at email@example.com.
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