PRODUCTIVITY

Waiting Stinks--But You Can Beat Your Frustration

Humans are bad at dealing with uncertain outcomes. Psychologist Kate Sweeny has some advice.
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Tom Petty said it best: the waiting is the hardest part.

That's why psychologist Kate Sweeny has set out to study how individuals can best mitigate their stress during long periods of uncertainty. She's currently testing different waiting strategies with prospective lawyers who are anticipating their California Bar Exam results, according to Real Clear Science. Some of these practices involve rethinking their perspectives and regulating their emotions.

While Sweeny's results aren't in yet, past research -- as well as a great deal of human experience -- has set a precedent for how best to mentally attack these situations. Sweeny detailed some tips in a past article. While you might already be practicing some of these daily, they all serve as good reminders.

1. Distract yourself. Whatever your favorite way to do it -- whether it's going out with friends, reading a riveting book, or volunteering -- get your mind off of the thing you're waiting for. Your distraction of choice must be totally irrelevant to the situation that's causing you angst.

2. Manage your expectations. This involves two strategies. One, you can brace for the worst. While it's not the rosiest option, you'll at least be mentally prepared for a bad outcome. Or you can hope for the best. Research suggests that adopting an optimistic attitude can reduce stress in the short-term.

3. There's a silver lining. Find it. Whatever the outcome is, take solace in knowing that you're going to be able to adjust to the change it brings. Even if the result is negative, you can cope by focusing on the positives.

4. Seek others' opinions. Advice from trusted family members and friends will help you to gain perspective on the situation.

5. Plan ahead. Be proactive, and use the waiting period to get steps ahead. Whether or not you experience a bad result this time around, it can only help to be prepared for what's next.

Last updated: Apr 1, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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