Waiting for worrying news? Try mindfulness to cope better
When we await worrying news – like our exam scores, hospital tests results or outcome of a job interview – we often use coping strategies to help mitigate the stress with this uncertainty.
But do these coping strategies really work?
Past research has shown that such tactics to worry and wait do not work and fail to reduce distress, and they backfire and make things worse.
Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, has been known to relive stress and anxiety.
Participants who were naturally more mindful or who practised mindfulness managed their expectations better by bracing for the worst later in the waiting period. They perceived themselves as coping better.
As a result researchers from the University of California, Riverside tested the role of mindfulness for improving the experience of stressful waiting.
The study involved 150 California law students who had taken their bar exams and were awaiting their results. It takes four months for the results to be posted online after taking the exams. In this four month waiting period, the students completed a series of questionnaires.
The levels of stress experienced in the four month waiting period were captured by statements taken from the students.
During the four months the students were asked to participate in 15 minute audio-guided meditation session at least once a week.
The researchers found that mindfulness meditation helped the students to postpone the phenomenon of “bracing” which is essentially waiting for the worst.
Previous research has shown that bracing can be effective for managing expectations, but it delivers the opposite effect if it occurs too early in the waiting period.
On the other hand optimism feels good but it does not prepare us for the blow of bad news.
In this study, participants who were naturally more mindful or who practised mindfulness managed their expectations better by bracing for the worst later in the waiting period. They perceived themselves as coping better.
Participants who had high intolerance for uncertainty and were less optimistic in disposition benefitted the most from mindfulness intervention – which focusses our attention on the present.
When we are waiting in anxiety over a particular outcome usually we ruminate continuously over past events or worry about the future and this is known to be harmful to our health and wellbeing.
But mindfulness helps us cope better while we wait, as we come to accept our thoughts and feelings in that moment, rather than engaging in tactics to avoid those feelings.
Even brief and infrequent meditation is helpful and proves to be a simple and effective coping strategy.
So if you find yourself waiting for some worrying news, take a break and meditate and you just might be less stressed, and manage your expectation better.
Source: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
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