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7 Tips for Finding Your Waiting Room Zen

Waiting rooms and emergency rooms are my top two stress-inducing locations. Whether I’m worried about communicating all of my questions or concerns with an existing member of my medical team, or seeing a new doctor, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to feel uneasy. My blood pressure is always pretty low, but I imagine that someone else’s might soar with apprehensive anticipation! While the legitimacy of my feelings isn’t in question, I prefer to minimize avoidable problems.


The negative effects of stress on an otherwise healthy person are numerous, and the impact on someone with chronic illnesses is even less helpful. It’s challenging to maintain a positive – or at least constructive – attitude in environments I associate with painful memories. However, it is possible to find an internal “happy place” and reclaim previously stressful spaces.

Here are my top tips for finding your “zen” in a stressful waiting room…

1. Mindfully prepare for the wait period before leaving the car. Meditating or singing along to my peppiest music helps me get into the best headspace for a waiting room. I alternate between using the Headspace meditation application on my phone and selecting a short practice on YogaGlo’s website. If you take public transportation, maybe set aside five to 10 minutes to breathe before leaving home.

2. Smile and say hello to the receptionist. Remembering to be pleasant to other people brings me back to the present moment when I could dwell on past experiences. This idea seems like such a no-brainer, but many people go into an unfriendly autopilot mode when they’re dealing with uncomfortable situations.

3. Bring a beach read or magazine, not “The Road.” I know a waiting room isn’t my best studying environment, so I don’t set myself up for failure. A light book with an easy-to-follow storyline transports me to a sunnier place, just as audiobooks help me fall asleep at night.

4. Recruit a friend or family member as a waiting room buddy. Most often, my mom is with me for doctor appointments. As well as being a second set of less-tired ears, she also chats about any non-medical news of the day. When buddies aren’t available to sit next to you, try finding someone who can text for a while before the appointment. Personally, I’ve felt the power of a funny GIF.

5. Show compassion towards other patients through patience. An extended wait isn’t fun, but it happens. Rather than staying annoyed, I remind myself that other patients have surely waited because of me. Some of my most thorough doctors tend to run over the allotted appointment time, and I want other patients to benefit from that kind of care. I’m not saying that sitting through a long delay is always reasonable, but some health issues are quite time sensitive.

6. Pull out a doodle notebook and listen to tunes. I enjoy Zentangles, and drawing the numerous patterns only requires a black pen and plain white paper. Similar to the commuter’s sing-along, listening to music through one ear bud can set a calm tone. Make sure you can still hear your name being called!

7. Carefully consider social media engagement, as it can be simultaneously positive and stressful. I admit to scrolling through my feed out of boredom or nerves, and that’s when I need to disconnect for a little while. On the other hand, I have a positive vibes distribution exercise. Kind comments and compliments on posts are lovely for the recipient, and I instantly feel less stressed while writing them.

My only qualification for giving out advice on living with chronic illnesses is personal experience, but I have that in heaping abundance.

Follow this journey on Maria Gracefully.

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Thinkstock photo via kieferpix.

7 Tips for Finding Your Waiting Room Zen