How to cope with waiting in academic limbo

Freddie Parker on 7 June 2023
Woman waiting, looking through a cafe window

Waiting for results day is always a stretched out nightmare. Here’s how you can cope with waiting anxiety.

The start of summer is a joyful time for most. Warmer, longer days are perfect to enjoy the last few days with your college or university friends. BBQ smoke permeates the air. But you can’t think about anything other than Results Day.

Whether you’re waiting for A-Level results, the last module result, or the grade for your dissertation to come out, it’s stressful. It’s natural, but you don’t just have to put up with it. 

Why do people get anxious while waiting?

Uncertainty makes any waiting period anxiety-inducing. Waiting to hear back from your doctor about that blood test or waiting for a response from a job application. The more impact on your future, the greater the anxiety while waiting.

Research is underway on why uncertainty is so stressful for us. One psychology professor suggested it could be a combination of lack of control and not knowing what’s coming. 

For some, they may even be getting anxious about future anxiety or struggles, anticipating negative emotions. 

What is anticipatory anxiety?

It’s the worry you experience when thinking about future events or the impacts of past events. It’s where you find yourself worrying about bad things that may or may not happen, or that you’ll miss out on opportunities. 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains it as a third layer of fear. First layer fears are in the moment, like “I’m scared of dogs”. Second layer is “there might be a dog and I might get scared”. Third layer is “the thought of going to a park where there might be dogs terrifies me”.

How do you cope with anticipation anxiety?

Outside of professional intervention, there are a handful of ways you can tackle it on your own. Therapy and counselling aren’t as accessible as they should be, especially for something as acute as anticipatory anxiety. So what can you do for yourself?

Emotional self-awareness - Check in with yourself. Take the time to understand yourself and how you react to situations. This can help you get ahead of a downward spiral if you can recognise when it’s starting.

Mindfulness - Get your head out of the past and/or future by focusing on the present. Meditate on how you feel, examine your surroundings. Breathe deeply and acknowledge the sensations.

Distraction - Get into a flow state and sink your teeth into a hobby, one that really grabs your attention. Some have even suggested that awe-inspiring experiences can have a positive effect.

What to avoid doing in this situation

Don’t isolate yourself. Keep your loved ones close, talk to them. People are generally sympathetic, as this is a relatable scenario. Hanging out with your friends and family could even be a great way to distract yourself.

Don’t punish yourself before anything happens. Ideally you don’t punish your own mistakes anyway. There is truly nothing to be gained from beating yourself up. It won’t change the past and won’t influence your future. Focus on the lessons you can learn.

How do you cope with academic anxiety? Follow us on socials and let us know.

Freddie Parker
Freddie Parker on 7 June 2023