For those of you who haven’t read the book or watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a quick summary of one of my favorite scenes — Harry, Ron and Hermioine go through the trap door guarded by the 3-headed dog and land on a fluffy plant known as the devil’s snare. As they land, the plant starts to twist it’s snake-like tendrils around their ankles, legs and their bodies and the only way to get past the devil’s snare is by staying calm. In fact, the more you strain against it, the tighter and faster the plant winds around you. Hermioine keeps calm and goes past the plant while Harry and Ron are rescued by a magic spell from Hermioine.
While this plant doesn’t exist in the muggle (non-wizards like us) world, we encounter many anxious moments in our lives where we have to go through a similar test. Particularly, I’m talking about moments where you’ve done your task/job and at this point it is just a waiting game — whether it is waiting for the results of an examination or grad school application or a job interview or performance review at work or the H1B lottery. This article lists a few things to do when you’re under stress or anxiety -
No Hasty Decisions While this is a no-brainer, some things to keep in mind —
Prior Planning — As soon as you’re done with a task and before you get into the anxious mode, understand and plan what steps you need to do further in completing the task. For example, while waiting after you’ve interviewed for your next job, you could plan when you’d be contacting the recruiter again for your result and what to email the recruiter.
Ask for help — When most of us make hasty decisions, we only realize it after executing it (obviously as we were in a haste). So, make it a habit of talking to someone before making decisions during these times— this could either be your friend or spouse or maybe even your mentor at work.
Be Prepared for the worst — After you’ve given your interview and planned for the next steps, this is the time to be pessimistic and expect the worst. As some people say — Aim for the best and expect the worst. A few points to keep in mind -
Plan Ahead — If you’re waiting for the result of your job interview, don’t wait till you hear the result — start looking for the next interview. If you’re waiting for the result of a grad school application, have a good backup plan if things don’t work out.
Take Inspiration — Imagine your worst situation and take inspiration from people who have been in similar situations and achieved success (however you define it).
Connecting the dots — If you need inspiration, I’d recommend watching this video — Steve Jobs Commencement Speech at Stanford. Quoting Steve — ‘ You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.’
Want vs Need — In the Harry Potter scene, the more Harry and Ron tried/wanted to get out of it, the tighter the plant wound around them. I’ve found this to be somewhat true in real life too. Some of the most important things come at the most unexpected times and as they put in the movie Dark Knight — ‘You don’t get what you want, you get what you need/deserve’.
Take Responsibility & Move on — Lastly, if things don’t work out — just accept and move on. The grad school admission committee doesn’t give you a reason on why you didn’t make and neither does a recruiter when you apply for a job. The last thing you want to do is to blame others for your failure (even if that is the truth).
Live In The Present — In other words, don’t dream too much about the future. While dreaming big is good, I don’t think doing it while you’re anxiously waiting is the best idea as it hurts you even more when things don’t work out. I understand this is an ideal case (I’ve never been able to come close to achieving this), there are a few near-ideal and practical scenarios that might help you —
Keep yourself occupied — If you ever wanted to work on a cool side project or lose an extra 5 pounds or start a new hobby or connect with a friend you’ve been wanting to or even watch a new TV series — this is the time!
Prioritize on other things — If you’re stressed at work, focus on your personal life — spend more time with your friends/family and vice versa.
New environment — This might not always mean going on a long trip to a far way country. Even small things like a day trip to a new place you’ve not been to or visiting a new restaurant or meeting new people help a lot.
Inform your dear ones (if needed) —Most of us tend to take out our anger or frustration on friends and family even though they’re no reason for our situation. Explain your situation or if you’re like me who keeps things to oneself, just let them know that you’re stressed out and would like to have some alone time.
If none of the above techniques work, imagine yourself advising your friend who is in this situation and write a blog post about it ☺
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