Waiting and Hospitals


I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals. Occasionally it was an emergency, and I didn’t have enough warning to take a book to read, or knitting, or even my phone charger.

Most of the time was spent waiting. Waiting for news when a family member was in surgery. Waiting for the elevator. Waiting and waiting and waiting to see the doctor. Waiting in the hospital room while a family member slept.

Waiting is awkward, and it’s boring.

My nervous system turns on the fight, flight or freeze response just because I am in a hospital. Heart rate increases, blood pressure often goes up, respiration rate increases. My body does this even when I am not the ill or injured person. Anxiety increases especially when I just have to wait…and worry.

Hospitals are not comfortable on purpose. They are not hotels. They want to be empty.

I am cold. There are NO comfortable chairs. I am hungry and the cafeteria is closed. I have to purchase special tokens for the parking garage. In the patient room machines hum and buzz and beep.

I walk to the window at the end of the hall. I take a deep breath in for a count of 4, hold it for a count of 4, and slowly exhale for a count of 5. I know that an exhale that is longer than an inhale will give my nervous system the signal to calm. For a moment. A minute is all I need. I do it again. The chatter in my mind quiets.

Even when it is not an emergency, waiting in a hospital is difficult, and remains boring.

I use 30 seconds to engage both body and mind in a movement. Standing, I sense the bottoms of my feet, notice the ground supporting me. Then slowly shift my weight to the left until my body tells me it’s far enough. I shift my weight to the right with the same deliberate attention. Back to center. I use a whole minute appreciating the support I receive from the ground, the balance I feel when I pause.

Mentastics Minute: when fight, flight, freeze is stimulated
– take a deep breath in for a count of 4, hold it for 4, and slowly exhale for a count of 5.
– sense bottom of feet, shift weight left and right, appreciate the support of the ground