Most people can tolerate waiting. Whether it’s standing in a checkout queue, at a bank or on a subway. But waiting in the hospital is a different story. Being surrounded by people primarily under high-stress levels can make you feel anxious.
How do you overcome this feeling? People cope in very different ways. Here are some tips.
Determine the Source of Anxiety
When you’re in a hospital, several factors can trigger anxiety. Figure out what brings this emotion up to the surface so you can resolve it. It can be because you’re traumatized by patients’ wailing on your last visit. Perhaps, you’re worried that your doctor will give you bad news.
Sources of anxiety are mostly psychological and the mind magnifies their impact. If you know the root cause, you’ll know what to do to extinguish it. For instance, you think the pain you’re feeling has worsened but it’s only in your mind. Try to divert your attention from the pain to other things.
Understand How It Affects You
Anxiety is the brain’s way of protecting you from danger. It keeps you awake and puts you on a fight-or-flight response. It is a neutral powerful emotion — neither good nor bad. How your brain perceives the outside situation causing anxiety determines whether it’s a healthy emotion or not.
So take a moment to look at your environment and assess your circumstances. Are you in danger? Does your fast heart rate and high blood pressure justify your current situation? If the answers to these questions are no, you have no reason for fear.
Waiting can make you perceive time longer than it actually is, which contributes to raised levels of anxiety. Beat it by reducing the waiting time. How can you do this? Collect hospital information.
ER wait times are long because patients are triaged and assigned a degree of urgency depending on the severity of their injuries or illnesses. Doctors see the most serious cases first. Those with minor symptoms can wait behind patients with the highest degree of urgency.
Call the hospitals near your area if you want to skip a long admission queue. Ask about the availability of ER and hospital staff. If the one nearest you is busy, you may find a different emergency department that’s not. You can head there and get admitted with a shorter waiting time.
Schedule an Appointment for Mid-Morning
Most hospitals are full-staffed in the morning between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. As emergencies often happen after people get off work, the ER tends to become overcrowded at night. If you feel more anxious seeing blood, patients passing out or people with severe injuries, visit the hospital during less busy hours. This way, you don’t linger with feelings of tension and worry for long. You may also get admitted immediately.
Mid-morning is the best time to visit your doctor since there are more hospital staff but fewer patients. Staff are also well-rested, so they’re at their best to do their responsibilities. It’s during this time that most medical specialists — such as a neurologist or cardiologist are present. If you require a specialist, there’s likely one readily available during a mid-morning visit.
Ask a Loved One To Accompany You
Knowing you’ll be walking busy hallways full of patients in dire need with a loved one gives you peace of mind and security. It makes you feel at ease if you have a supportive family member to accompany you to the hospital and be with you throughout the evaluation.
This person can also help respond to the doctor’s questions you can’t answer in detail because you’re overpowered by anxiety. Doctors usually ask about your symptoms and medication side effects. Since you’re nervous, you might forget major details. Your spouse or sibling can help you remember some particulars about your health, such as the last time you had insomnia.
Mental preparation can reduce tension and unease. Remember a time when you had a huge presentation coming up? Did you visualize how each sequence of events would play so the presentation would be a success?
One way to mentally prepare is to play a slow video in your mind of what could happen and envision the outcome. For instance, you may imagine your doctor receiving the lab results and telling you there’s nothing wrong with your health.
Many people are anxious because they don’t know what to expect during their doctor’s visit. If you mentally rehearse what will happen at the hospital, the incident becomes predictable, so they’re less apprehensive.
Open Up About Your Anxiety
Sometimes, being upfront about your anxiety is the best route to go. Don’t feel embarrassed admitting it to your doctor. They may not specialize in mental health but can diagnose the problem and, if necessary, refer you to a therapist.
Some patients may feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health because of its stigma. They don’t want people to judge them. But many psychological problems are linked with physical illnesses, so inform your doctor. This way, they can do a thorough health assessment. Remember, they can only help you if you’re honest about the state of your well-being.
Try Immersion and Exposure Therapy
If you’re starting a long health care journey, such as for pregnancy, surgery or cancer treatment, where you visit the hospital frequently, immersion or exposure therapy can help treat anxiety. You can work with a therapist to explore what treatment methods are effective for you. You may do role-playing or virtual reality therapy.
If you can manage your own anxiety at some level, visit the hospital where you’ll receive treatment and request a tour. Tell the receptionist about your fears. Meet the doctors in charge of your surgery and ask questions about the machines they’ll use for your treatment. Instead of avoiding, immerse yourself in the situation and setting until you develop tolerance. Do this a few days before your treatment so you have time to decompress at home.
Recentering to the Present To Find Calmness
Going to the hospital is always a tough decision to make. You’re still in the parking lot but your mind is thinking of all the negative scenarios that won’t likely happen in real life. That’s part of the wiring of the brain. Learning the skill to control the mind and pull it back to the present is substantial in managing anxiety every time you wait in the ER.
Anxiety is treatable by identifying its source, understanding its effects on your well-being and working with a therapist who can help you overcome it through immersion or exposure therapy.
Beth is the Managing Editor and content manager at Body+Mind. She shares knowledge on a variety of topics related to nutrition, healthy living, and anything food-related. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness trends and recipes.