Watching someone you love and care about undergo scans, blood tests or any other type of medical exam can be a difficult and helpless experience which can get even tougher whilst awaiting the results. It can be hard to keep your mind from jumping to a worst case scenario, and along with your own thoughts and worry is the responsibility you can feel as a carer to help allay the fears and concerns of the person you love and care for.
How do you manage your own negative thoughts and anxiety in this situation? The 10 strategies below from a UVA Health blog post (US Based) can help you and others in your life to better manage what can be a tough time.
10 Ways to Reduce Anxiety While Waiting for Test Results
1. Remember that your feelings are normal
Waiting for imaging test results can be a significant and stressful experience. If you feel worried, anxious, or stressed, take comfort in knowing that your feelings are normal and experienced by many people. Often, questioning why we feel a certain way, or trying to fight a feeling, can make us feel worse than the actual feeling itself.
2. Don’t assume the worst
It’s easy to assume that, because your doctor ordered an imaging exam for you, they must think you have a particular disease or condition. But that kind of negative thinking isn’t necessarily true: often, providers order an exam to rule out an unlikely disease or condition, or out of an abundance of caution. Remember that having an imaging exam does not automatically mean that something is wrong with you.
3. Take steps to feel more in control
While waiting for medical test results, it’s easy to feel powerless. And that powerlessness, or lack of control, can make you feel anxious. But there are steps you can take to have more control over the situation.
When meeting with your doctor, take notes to help you remember what you discussed. Ask questions about the exam, and about when you will get the results. And ask exactly how you’ll receive the results, whether by phone call, in person, or an email. Just knowing when and how to expect results can help you feel more calm and in control.
4. Limit how much you look up online
The internet is full of information about diseases, conditions, and exam results – none of which may apply to you. And much of the information you find might be wrong or misleading. Here at Inside View, all of our information is vetted by subspecialty trained radiologists who are experts on the topic we’re discussing. But other sites might not be so accurate.
Furthermore, reading online information about diseases or results may add unnecessary stress and worry while you’re waiting for results. We always recommend talking to your doctor first instead of looking for information online. Only your doctor knows you, your body, and your medical history.
5. Keep busy – or keep still
For some people who are anxious while waiting for news, distraction and packing their time with activities is the best way to cope. For others, quieting the mind and pursuing contemplative activities, like prayer, yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises, is better. Try both and see what works for you!
6. Stick to your daily routine
If you’re waiting for test results, be sure to do the things you normally enjoy. Spend time with family and friends, pursue your favourite hobbies, and keep your normal sleep schedule. A routine can ground you and send signals to your mind and body that you are in control and safe.
7. Try taking a walk
Regular exercise and a healthy diet have been shown to help alleviate stress and worry. If you find yourself feeling particularly worried about medical results, try taking a 30 minute walk. Or do another form of exercise that you enjoy. You don’t have to run a marathon to feel the calming benefits of exercise!
8. Ask for help
Waiting for imaging test results is stressful. Sharing your feelings and worries with others can make you feel less alone and make the worries feel less powerful. In particular, talking with people who have been in the same situation as you can help you feel more connected and make your experience feel more normal. And always tell your doctor if you are feeling stressed or anxious – they will likely have ideas to help, too.
9. Write what you feel
If you are feeling stressed or scared while waiting for exam results, try writing about it. The simple act of writing out what you are thinking and feeling can help you feel more aware and in control. Try journaling about your thoughts and feelings for a few minutes each day, either before bed or first thing in the morning.
10. Focus on your inner strength
It’s easy to feel worried or powerless while waiting for medical test results. But by concentrating on your strengths rather than your fears, you can refocus your mind on your ability to cope with challenges, rather than feelings of helplessness.