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The Weight of the 'Wait'

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There's one certainty for a family caregiver. At some point, you can count on having to wait for information that might have significant consequences to a love one's health. It can be a blood test, PET scan, MRI, biopsy and even the not-so-routine doctor's follow-up exam. There's an array of things it could be. But all these situations do have something in common.

As caregivers, there is nothing that we can do to influence the results. Yet waiting for the outcome can weigh so heavily on us. No doubt about it, the sheer weight of the situation equals stress, and potentially a lot of it.

Interestingly, people I know who are the most balanced during these uncertain periods share the mindset of being somewhat of a fatalist. They spend little time worrying about dire consequences until there is definitive information. These aren't negative people. In fact, they are very positive, and they do three things that are terrific and in my experience not common with most family caregivers.

1. They stay in the moment.
2. They think within a positive context.
3. They focus primarily on the things they can control or influence.

Of course, unless you are a robot, it's normal to have anxiety and concern, wondering "if" all will be OK, what's going to happen and the consequences to everyone involved. However, when concern becomes an obsession, the stress can really take a toll on you physically and emotionally.

I know this all too well.

Eleven years ago, after having some ongoing symptoms, my wife's internist suggested that she have a brain MRI. When the results returned, the MRI showed an abnormality and she recommended we see a specialist. An appointment was made for a date three weeks out.

Of course, on that day, I had little idea of what, if anything, was wrong. But the thought of what could be was very concerning... and the perfect condition to start packing on a load of stress!

Three weeks later, we visited the neurologist, who turned out to be brilliant and equally impatient and abrasive. A wonderful combination for any caregiver, huh?

For instance, after he thoroughly examined my wife, as I was walking out of his office alone with him and when my wife wasn't near, I asked if he thought that the abnormality was serious. Without a moment's hesitation, he barked, "You are so far ahead of me that I won't even address that ridiculous question." (Where is a baseball bat when you need one?)

He continued. "There are many things that need to be evaluated before I can make a diagonsis. We will have to wait for two to three months and retest before I will have a better idea of what we are dealing with. There is a step-by-step process to figure this out. So let me do my job."

Two to three months of waiting on pins and needles? Are you freakin' kidding me! But, oh boy, the weight began really pilling on.

Over the course of the next 73 days, I waited... and waited... and waited. But I always assured my wife that there was nothing to worry about -- assuaging any of her concerns while the weight of my stress was building up from my own anxiousness.

Then, on the 74th day, we received the final diagnosis. Thank God! It was nothing serious. All was fine. However, interestingly, the wonderful news did not cause the weight to disappear
immediately. I guess as a family caregiver I had become so accustomed to a "dire" mindset that the weight I was putting on was beginning to feel normal. And that is the real danger!

So although you may not be a fatalist, and by nature actually may be a bit of a worrier, you will have better results forgoing the weight of waiting by not getting too far ahead of yourself. Don't jump to the worst possible conclusions. Stay in the moment, in the reality of what is happening then and there.

Just think back over your life. How many times have you projected bad outcomes, whether they were issues surrounding health, your job, family or friends? Then, after all the projecting and mentally hashing things out over and over again, how many times did everything turn out just fine? How many times have you've tormented yourself, completely and utterly unnecessarily?

So, here are your "weight" control instructions that will tip the scale in your favor.

Restrict consumption of...

• Over-imagination
• Rush-to-judgment predictions
• Fear-based thinking

Increase consumption of...

• Pragmatism
• Patience
• Process
• Positivity

I promise that if you follow this weight-control program you will begin to see the excess stress fade away. And the great news is there is no "wait" time.

Start today!

Help Yourself. Help Others.

For more by Victor Imbimbo, click here.

For more on caregiving, click here.

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