Health and Wellness from Humana - Learning To Be More Patient

March 08, 2011

Waiting in traffic can be stressful

Patience is more than a virtue

The 20 minutes you've spent on the phone listening to "we're sorry, but all service agents are busy." The dog who just can't seem to tell the difference between a chair leg and a tree trunk. The husband, wife, or child who's been asked a million times to please close the door when they go outside.

Is your stress level going up just thinking about times like those? If so, you're not alone: everyone has times that test his or her patience to the limit. But learning to be more patient is a great way to help lower your stress level and improve your physical and mental health, too.

What is patience?

Isaac Newton said "If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent." From the first scientist to understand the idea of gravity, that's saying something!

Perhaps more in line with our typical stressful days, author Richard Rybolt says "There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self-destruct. It never fails."

A quick Internet search turns up hundreds and hundreds of quotes about patience and how valuable it is. But first, what is patience? Simply put, it's the art of learning to wait and then of turning that waiting time into something good for you. Of course, this isn't always easy, not even close. Whether it's waiting for something good, like a birthday party, or dealing with deep pain like the death of a loved one, patience is all about time.

And as we know, time has a way of going on, no matter how we try to stop it.

So it's what we do with the waiting that helps build patience. And more patience is something that's good for everyone especially the person in the car in front of you. Think of it as exercise: even a little bit every day makes you stronger. Wouldn't it be nice to have stronger peace of mind?

Tips for learning to be more patient:

  • Keep a journal. For the next week or two, write down whatever's giving you those itchy, impatient feelings. Do it enough, and you'll start to be more aware of not only feelings of impatience, but what's causing them. From there, it's much easier to start dealing with the times, places, and situations that cause the feelings.
  • Ask yourself why you're in such a hurry? Tight schedules and doing several things at once tend to make us more "charged up" to begin with. If your To-Do list is making you feel stressed, maybe it's as simple as a more manageable To-Do list. And if you're feeling overloaded, sometimes asking for help can make a big difference, too. It may sound hard, but really it's not.
  • Look for patterns, and pinpoint some causes. Impatience is behind anxiety, worry, and fear in many cases. Which people, words, or events seem to make you want to blow up? And what's behind them? Is it a reality or truth about yourself that you just don't want to face? Being honest with yourself about these feelings can save a lot of stress in other parts of your life.
  • Plan for "Murphy Moments." Things just aren't always going to go your way. But when you prepare for wrong turns and crises, you won't be so upset when they happen.
  • Think of it as short-term. Successful people tend to see tough times as "temporary setbacks" instead of deal-breaking disasters. When you look at things that way, it's much easier to move forward with a creative, problem-solving attitude instead of getting stuck in the role of defeated victim.
  • Practice patience, bit by bit. Before you can handle the big things, it's good to have spent some time on smaller ones. When the printer jams, when you're stuck in line at the grocery store, when the kids ask "why?" yet again, take it as a chance to change how you react. First, ask yourself if it's a life or death situation. If not, then look at replacing an angry feeling with the chance to be creative. Compose a poem in your head. Imagine what the cashier would look like in a hula skirt. Think of what your kids might say if you told them you were invited to tea with the Queen. Think of it as a mental break and use the time and energy to let your mind play.
  • Remember why you're here. Some people say that impatience is often a result of not focusing on what really matters in your life. Are you here to love and be loved? Are you here to feel better about yourself? Are you here to make the planet just a little bit nicer place?
  • Just say "whoa." Take a few minutes every day to do absolutely nothing. No TV, no reading, no listening to music just sitting quietly and seeing what comes into your mind. By doing this, you can often feel like time actually slows down, at least while you're allowing it to!
  • Be kind to yourself. The world is not going to run smoothly; it's just out of our hands. But if you can slow time down and remember this, you can make your little corner of the world a more comfortable place.

And perhaps, if enough of us do such things, our combined corners can make things better for more people.

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