How to Stay Calm When You’re in the Waiting Room

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You’re sitting there, wearing a thin pastel robe. Maybe it’s your first mammogram, or maybe a doctor wants to take a closer look and you’ve been called back for a more comprehensive exam. Freaking out isn’t going to help! Here are some tips to help you stay calm while you wait:

Recognize your anxiety
Waiting is hard — whether you’re standing next to a microwave counting down seconds till your lunch gets hot or you’re sitting at a red light wondering what’s taking so long. Sometimes, minutes just tick by slowly. Waiting your turn for a breast exam is even worse. It might help to remind yourself that anxiety is a normal reaction to this situation. Give yourself a break.

Breathe
Concentrating on your breath is one of the easiest, most effective ways you can calm yourself down. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and it’s free. Take advantage of this excellent tool. Just inhale very slowly through your nose, paying attention to how your lungs fill up with air. Then, exhale, mentally counting to 10 as you let your breath go. Repeat the process several times, and your whole body will feel calmer, including your mind.

MORE: How to get a good night’s sleep after a breast cancer diagnosis

Distract yourself
See those magazines? They’re there for you to use. Absorb your mind in a pleasant distraction instead of sitting at the edge of your seat, waiting to hear your name called. Write a letter to a friend, make a list of your goals and dreams, or start the next Nobel Prize-winning novel. Use your waiting room time in whatever way works for you that doesn’t include staring at the clock.

Bring support
The right friend can get you through almost anything, but if it’s not an option to bring her to your appointment, consider initiating a conversation with the other women in the waiting room. Some of them might be nervous and would appreciate the opportunity to commiserate. Others might be more experienced and willing to share their wisdom.

Pray
Many people find a new ability to achieve deep spiritual connections when they’re dealing with health issues. Some hospitals have chapels or meditation rooms that can be a source of comfort and support. Connecting with a higher power can make you feel at peace.

Congratulate yourself
Give yourself a pat on the back for taking care of your health. Whether you’re there for a first-time visit, an annual check up, or a follow-up appointment to get more information and care, the fact that you’re getting medical attention means that you are looking after Number One. You. And that’s a good thing.

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