The Waiting Game

{photo credit :: pieceofcakepeaceofmind.com}

{photo credit :: pieceofcakepeaceofmind.com}

Last week I did a whole bunch of teaching yoga. Well, to be entirely accurate, I co-taught a class on Friday, did a private lesson on Saturday, and taught a class on Tuesday. While teaching 3x probably doesn’t actually qualify as a “whole bunch,” it felt like a lot. A. Whole. Lot. Okay okay, if we’re being totally honest, I was overwhelmed.

But here’s the thing — it wasn’t “the teaching” that was the problem, it was the “waiting to teach” that felt utterly overwhelming … and it was because I was playing The Waiting Game.

What is The Waiting Game, you ask? Well, it’s where your mind tumbles down a rabbit hole and becomes fixated on thinking about some future thing. You might be caught up in excitement, dread, or a combo of the two — regardless, your days are consumed with counting down the minutes waiting for that event to occur. In my case, I was consumed with:

  • Dread… about all the things that could go wrong.
  • Excitement… about all the things that could go right.
  • Worry… about whether anyone would show up (and/or whether too many people would show up).
  • Basically, I agonized about every little detail.
  • And even lost sleep to convoluted dreams about farfetched catastrophic scenarios (no none of them happened).
Maybe you can relate?

Sure, you might not teach (or even practice) yoga, but I bet you can relate! We’ve all played The Waiting Game at some point. It’s normal human being stuff to feel this way on occasion. Alfred Hitchcock even said “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

Maybe for you, you get caught up in The Waiting Game before public speaking? Or before hosting a party? Or before going to visit your family? Or before a first date? … Whatever your thing is, I’m entirely certain that you’re all too familiar with what I’m talking about.

Strategies to help you (aka, me) simmer down during a long wait:

Even though this is normal human being stuff, it’s not fun. In fact, The Waiting Game is draining, tiring, stressful… and entirely unsustainable. Yet there will always be things on the horizon that could trigger me (or you) to jump into Waiting Game mode. So, with that in mind, here are some strategies that you and I could employ when we start feeling the itch to count down the minutes:

+ Practice mindfulness. Train yourself to focus your attention on what is happening right now, such as by practicing meditation. During meditation, our focus inevitably wanders off — and over and over again we practice bringing our attention back to the the present. This “returning to the present” is a skill you can employ when you find yourself engaged in The Waiting Game. When you notice yourself starting to think about what might happen, practice shifting your focus back to what is actually happening right now.

+ Relieve tension in your body. When I’m playing The Waiting Game, my jaw tenses, my fingers and toes grip, and I start to get achy in my lower back. Or is it the other way around — when my body gets tense, my mind starts to follow suit? Either way, I’ve found that giving my physical body some love helps me stave off the desire to count down the minutes. Maybe you get a massage or maybe you spend time rolling around on a roller/tennis ball/pokey ball (not sure what I’m talking about, come to Bella Dreizler’s “Release the Beast” class at It’s All Yoga on Friday nights … you will thank yourself!) — whatever you do, allow yourself to melt into that release.

+ Breathe. After I managed to crawl out of last week’s Waiting Game rabbit hole, I realized that I had essentially been holding my breath for an entire week. Sure I was taking in enough oxygen to survive, but not much beyond that! If you find yourself in a similar state: pause and allow yourself to take a series of deep inhales and exhales through your nose. Notice your belly rising up and down. Notice the gentle sound of breath moving in and out of your body. Consider this your internal reset button.

+ Schedule yourself a limited amount of time to play The Waiting Game. It’s hard to quit The Waiting Game cold turkey, so be realistic about the fact that you’re probably going to need to give yourself some breathing room. Heck, go ahead and schedule yourself 30 minutes to be consumed with worrying, obsessing, and freaking out about all of the details. Give yourself permission to just go there. But set a timer and when your timer goes off, you’re done.

+ Consider that the anticipation might be part of the fun. Once I’ve been teaching yoga longer, each individual class will be less stressful, but also less exciting! As Andy Warhol said: “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.” Perhaps it’s worth considering that we could appreciate — maybe even enjoy — that “butterflies in your stomach, waiting for something big to happen” feeling…

Your turn! How do you handle waiting/anticipation? Do you play The Waiting Game? What strategies do you employ to get you through?  

8 comments

  1. I don’t have an answer to your question about how I handle this sort of situation, yet. But I have a difficult meeting coming up next weekend and what you had to say about how you cope is very helpful. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for sharing this! It’s comments like this that remind me — we humans have so much more in common than we might assume…

      Hope your meeting goes smoothly and your wait is manageable.

      1. I thought I’d drop by to let you know that the event to which I was not looking forward with pleasure turned out to be far and away more positive than I could have expected or hoped.

        Your advice about dealing with the lead up to it could possibly have influenced the outcome; who knows?

        1. Who knows… but so awesome that it turned out that way! A relief, I’m sure. Thanks for stopping by with the update!

  2. Robert Webster · · Reply

    A few years ago I had to present a topic at conference in Sacramento and wondered why anyone would come or if they would come to hear what I had to say. My mentor said something that has stuck with me to this day: “You have knowledge and information on the subject that the audience wants to hear and learn. It’s good to be a bit nervous because it gives you an “edge!”” I still get a bit nervous but not in a way that paralyzes me. I’ve seen a growth in you that your former self would be proud and amazed! I certainly am!

    1. Thanks for sharing this story Robert! It’s hard to imagine you nervous… but then again, it’s nice to know that I’m in such good company. (And, for the record, my self is proud and amazed too… it’s nice to start waking up. And it’s been wonderful to see you more frequently these past few weeks! :))

  3. My mind usually visits the worst case scenario while I’m waiting. This stresses me out and though on the outside I seem perfectly calm, inside I’m hyperventilating. Add to this an extreme case of stage fright and any time I have to be in front of people is torture for me. Needless to say I avoid getting up in front of people. Thank you for the tips, I’ll try them out.

    1. Ohh, I can SO relate! I hope the tips are helpful… For me, the biggest thing has been the one that is seemingly the most simple – remembering to breathe. Since I forget so often, I’ve been keeping a bright pink post-it on my work computer with the word “BREATHE” written on it. A handful of times per day it catches my eye and I remember to take a few slow, deliberate breaths, and immediately feel better (like right now). xoxo

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