In some respects, I have a great deal of patience; Lending an ear to a friend who is experiencing personal distress, slow-cooking a delicious homemade stew that takes over eight hours to cook and awaiting the changes of the seasons. In other situations, however, my patience can be limited. I often find myself sitting in a long line of traffic feeling at my wits end. How is it that a fifteen-minute journey is going to take me over an hour? My heart is racing, and I can feel the stress hormones rushing through my body. I’m frantically moving about in my seat, muttering under my breath, feeling extremely agitated. Other than to drive me into a complete and utter frenzy, my impatience is truly pointless. It is not accomplishing anything. I’m in this moment and, at least for now, there is nothing I can do to change it. With my engine now switched off, sat behind hundreds of cars, I ask myself a fundamental question. Would it not be more beneficial for me to simply embrace the moment, to learn how to be a little more patient in situations like this?
In most cases, I realise that what I’m attempting to do is forego the present moment in exchange for an advancement into the future. Suddenly, I’ve stepped into the Tardis and I’m in Dr Who territory. When I consider it from that perspective, it’s easy to see how ridiculous impatience can be. Impatience can compromise quality, something I’ve experienced in my own life. Reflecting on my years of study in my twenties, my impatience, on occasions, got the better of me. I recall one particular moment, feeling impatient by the task of writing thousands of words on what I had deemed to be a monotonous topic. I rushed the end of the assignment in desperation to finish, yet had to come back to it the following day to rewrite the last third. My impatience compromised quality, it caused me to make silly mistakes. My impatience wasted time, the very thing that I was trying to save. A more patient approach would have resulted in a better assignment and time would have, ultimately, been on my side.
Patience is not something I’ve learned, but rather something I’m learning. Simply acknowledging that I need to be more patient does not mean that patience comes easy to me. It’s a skill that I’m working hard at to master. I’d like to share with you some of my own thoughts on impatience and the techniques that I have since adopted.
- First things first, I have to reason with myself. Is this situation within my control? Is there any point at all to this display of impatience? Will this state of mind impact the situation in a positive way? If the answer is no, then I simply have to stop myself. Just stop! I have to accept that the battle is not mine to win. I am not the God of traffic.
- Embrace the moment and realise that impatience is a choice. You can choose to be patient (thereby existing in the moment), or you can choose to be impatient.
- Remember that your impatience can impact others. Your impatience can cause others to feel agitated and stressed, particularly if you are hurrying them, therefore making any given situation worse. Imagine how you would feel if you were being hurried by someone else. It can make you feel uncomfortable and unnerved. If you’re in a situation where someone else is making you feel impatient (perhaps the shopper in front of you is taking too long at the checkout), a counting technique can help, at least while you’re learning the art of patience. Counting slowly up to ten can help to slow your heart rate and relax your body. It also takes your mind off the very situation that is making you feel impatient. In some cases, of course, you may need to count for longer.
- Identify your own signs of impatience and try to focus on improving those feelings. As previously discussed, irritability and a racing heartbeat are often the symptoms I experience. I will talk about how I address these symptoms as we go on.
- Examine your physique. Are you tense? In whatever stressful situation I’m in, where possible, I try to relax my body. I have a tendency to tense my hands and shoulders, so whenever I’m sat in traffic and I know I’m going to be held up for some time, I give myself a relaxing hand massage. Moving my thumb across the palm of my hand in a circular motion, I apply a pressure that is comfortable, yet firm enough to address the tension. I also do some shoulder rolls to try and increase the range of motion in my shoulders.
- Whenever I feel impatient, instead of breathing shallowly, I adopt a slow breathing technique. I focus all of my attention on the in-breath and out-breath. I take a deep breath in and follow with a long exhalation. In doing this for just thirty seconds, it really helps to calm me down. Whatever your situation, this technique can be applied instantly, even if you have to remove yourself from the situation for a couple of minutes. Breathing techniques can help with any stressful situation.
- For me, if I feel cold in anyway, I feel more agitated. For others, feeling too warm can unnerve them further. Make sure you are comfortable. If I’m in my car, sat in traffic, I always make sure that I’m warm enough, as I know that feeling cold will not help the situation.
- I always keep a selection of CDs in my car that I know can relax me when feeling impatient in queuing traffic. This can be any music that you find relaxing. Now, this isn’t the track that you’d go running to or that you’d put on to make you feel empowered. That will merely fuel a fire that is already blazing. Select a piece of music that, instead, will create feelings of calm. It really doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it resonates with you. For me, Jazz music is my go to relaxant.
Over the years, it’s become apparent to me that impatience benefits nobody. Impatience simply makes any given situation worse. Learning how to be patient is not a lesson that is learned overnight. It’s a skill that requires practice. Don’t be put off by the thought of this though. Persist with it and it will pay off.