The Stress of Waiting

Hamis Hegazy - March 9 - 5 min read

After completing my required prerequisite courses, it finally came time to apply for my dream school. This aspiration has been my dream since grade 10, and now, in my third year of university, being eligible to submit my application brings me joy yet anxiety about the selection process! The anxiety and stress of waiting for a pivotal decision that will significantly impact one’s life is daunting. You pour relentless effort into a specific aspiration or goal, and once you submit it, it goes up in the air. The opaque decision-making process leaves you worried about your future. You do not know the criteria by which the decision makers abide by. You do not know what the future will look like. And you do not know what to do during the waiting period until the decision is made. Nevertheless, you do know you put in your best work to achieve the goal you desire. A phrase I frequently tell my friends that represents this issue is: “You cannot see it. You just have to do it.” The “it” in this ambiguous phrase represents the future. You cannot see what the future holds, but you will do anything it takes to see the future the way you want it to be like. My friends repeated the phrase I told them to me as I began my dream school application, which I found very endearing! In this blog, I will explore strategies to manage and navigate the stress of waiting for any decision that is out of your control, and how I utilize those strategies.

Relaxation techniques

When you find yourself overwhelmed with emotions and feelings, it is essential to take a pause, recollect yourself, and think positive thoughts. This practice will enhance your focus, mood, and quality of life. Engaging in relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, light exercises like stretching and yoga, and meditation will alleviate the stress of waiting and give your body and mind a rest.

As my application deadline approached, I was afraid to press the “submit” button and send it to the unknown, despite thoroughly reviewing its completeness multiple times. The stress of waiting to hit send sent me spiraling in a lot of emotions such as nervousness and excitement. However, when the moment arrived to finally submit the application, what provided me relief was taking deep breaths and doing hand exercise. These simple relaxation techniques helped me manage my elevated stress levels and keep me calm.

Stay busy

Finding ways to stay occupied while waiting for your result or achieving your goal is crucial. This prevents the constant urge to check your status on the website. Frequently checking to hear back takes away valuable time from your day and elevates the existing stress of waiting.

I applied to the same program in four different schools, and I bookmarked the application portals on my laptop. Despite knowing the timeline of the application, the stress of waiting has me reloading the portal on a daily basis. To cope with the anticipation when the acceptance and rejection notifications come out, I plan to keep myself busy with a new part-time job. This will not only help me improve my personal skills, but it will keep my mind occupied with the job rather than the application process. Pursuing a job or a volunteering opportunity during this time serves as a relaxation technique to put your mind at ease.

Find positive distractions

This ties back to the strategy about keeping busy. However, for those unable to find a job, pursuing a hobby you enjoy is an alternative. So in the summer, you can hang out with your friends, practice a hobby you immensely enjoy to occupy your time, or even learn a new personal skill. The key is to try to minimize using your phone or laptop, because this will urge you to keep checking for any updates from the decision makers.

A hobby I hope to get back into is playing my favorite sport, badminton, at the recreation center with my friends. Not only will I get physical activity from it, but it will be a fun way to divert my mind from the application process and having fun with my friends.

Seek support

Finding friends, family members, coworkers, or even club members as confidants is crucial to put your mind at ease and distract yourself from the anticipated outcome. Opening up and sharing your thoughts and feelings provides you with a sense of relief, knowing that you are not alone and surrounded by people who will support you during your endeavors.

My best friend is my biggest supporter. Each day, I share my struggles of anxiously waiting for admissions to make their decision and how it causes me to be constantly stressed. She offers valuable advice on how to manage my fears. One of those pieces of advice is going outdoors and discovering new places. We try to regularly go out every other week to destress and talk about things outside of school.

Visualize positive outcomes

Avoid being pessimistic! Although it is generic to say “Think positive” when all you can think about is your status update, think about how life could be when you achieve your desires. Furthermore, if you end up with an outcome you did not expect, focus on areas of improvement to pursue that specific aspiration. There is always room for growth and opportunities for everyone.

As I write this blog, my mind is thinking about my application status since I am sharing it with you! However, I am also visualizing how different my life, future, and career opportunities will be once I get into my dream school program. At the same time, I am thinking about possible courses that I could take next year if I do not get in. I want to continue in courses I enjoy that will align with my future career when I apply again in the next application cycle.

Focus on what you can control

We cannot control or change the inevitable, as the decisions are made by the decision makers that are beyond our influence. We can control the process leading up to the outcome we desire and the amount of hard work we put in to achieve it. For example, starting early your aspirations will give you time to work towards it.

For my application to the program, I did all my research over the summer. I reached out to admissions about specific questions that I knew I would have. So when the portal opened during the school semester, I had all the information gathered and completing sections of the application was smooth. I worked on things I can control!

Stay informed

Ensure that you read your emails or status updates as they become available; however, do not constantly keep checking! This will contradict strategy number two! Instead, only check your updates according to the approximate timeline of their release to avoid heightened levels of anxiety or stress.

During my summer research on my dream, I saved the timelines on my google calendar, ensuring I check at the appropriate time without overdoing it. Meanwhile, I have my email notifications turned on to guarantee I receive important updates that may not be directly posted on the application portal. And I, indeed, received personalized emails from the admissions office, asking me to submit extra information about my application to help them with their decision.

Practice self-compassion

Perhaps this is the most essential advice in this blog: practice self-compassion! Be kind to yourself! Acknowledge that the waiting process is challenging not just for you, but for everyone else as well. Do not dwell on what you cannot control, because it will ultimately affect your mental well-being.

One area I definitely need to work on is refraining from self-blame when things do not go the way I wanted. I had aimed to apply for my dream program during my second year, but various factors such as having to retake one of my courses and shifting another course to another semester impacted my timeline. Those challenges forced me to move my application to my third year. Although I did some self reflection and asked myself why I am going through those obstacles, I realized that I am not alone in this situation. I saw many others in university going through a similar experience as me, and I learned that self-compassion is essential in order to continue in this journey. Remember that there is always something for everyone.