Patience is a virtue, they say, but it’s often easier said than done. Many people live busy, action-packed lives, hopping between work, errands, and activities at a rapid pace. Things like two-day shipping, Slack, Teams, and grocery delivery have set the expectation that everything should be delivered ASAP, that every need is urgent.
When you’re feeling the heat of impatience and any small mistake feels like it’ll push you over the edge, it’s hard to get a handle on your emotions, and you may react in ways that embarrass you later. You can figure out what triggers these feelings and manages them better in the future — but the first step is learning what patience means to you and the practices that help you handle it.
“Patience can be defined as having the capacity to deal with or tolerate a delay, trouble, or unanticipated result or outcome without frustration, upset, anger, or distress,” says Dr. Debra M. Kawahara at the California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International University. “Patience is a skill that can be developed and strengthened with intentional practice.”
If you’re looking for ways to practice patience with others, your kids, or even with yourself, these tips to be more patient from mental health professionals and mindfulness experts will help you get centered, take a breath, and wait your turn.
Start your day on a positive note.
It’s easy to feel irritated and impatient when you wake up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed, but starting the day with a positive intention can make a world of difference for your mindset and patience levels. “Patience is like a muscle that must be practiced,” explains psychotherapist James Miller. “When you practice mindfulness, you are instantly aware of what you feel and can choose to respond how you want.” Being cognizant of your emotions can help you keep an upbeat attitude instead of reacting with anger or impatience.
Perhaps you’re waiting on a coworker to finish a task, standing in a long line at the bank, or you’ve gotten the wrong takeout. Instead of flipping your lid, examine all angles; maybe that coworker is dealing with a sick child, or the bank is understaffed. “Often, a situation can have multiple perspectives, so reframing the situation to think of the multiple possibilities, particularly one of many positive possibilities, can be very helpful in increasing one’s patience,” advises Kawahara.
This is an especially great practice when you’re dealing with children — particularly stubborn, tantrum-happy toddlers. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. For example, your child may be trying to tell you something but doesn’t have the words to express their emotions yet. “[Empathy] is being able to take on another perspective that allows oneself to be open-minded, listen, and understanding of another’s experience,” shares Kawahara.
Getting into it with someone and losing your cool? Try and understand where they’re coming from. “Consider another person’s perspective if you disagree. Maybe they have a different lived experience or don’t have the same set of information you have when forming an opinion,” advises Dr. Meghan Marcum, Chief Psychologist for AMFM Healthcare. “Try to zoom out and look at the big picture instead of only what’s right in front of you.”
Don’t jump to conclusions or demand answers and actions. Take a breather before losing it on someone (or on yourself). “Wait at least 20 minutes before you act on your initial impulse,” Marcum says. “Even a little bit of time away from your first impulse can help you view a situation from a different perspective.” Leave your desk and take a walk, spend a few minutes in a quiet room away from your children or decide to come back to the post office or bank later when your mind feels clearer.
There’s no harm in walking away. “Removing yourself from a heated conversation or phone call may be the best thing you can do to prevent escalating the issue further,” Marcum explains. “Take several slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. This helps to calm your central nervous system and slow your heart rate which produces a calming effect.”
Stop multitasking and focus on mindfulness.
Doing a million things at once can only add to your frustration and impatience. Susan Whitman of the University of Vermont’s Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching program recommends a moment to put down the task at hand and focus on the present moment, whether that’s turning on some music, looking out a window, or practicing an activity that allows you to focus on sensations and actions, like folding laundry or washing your hands. This can help shift your focus from what’s bothering you and serve as a change of scenery.
“It may seem hard and awkward at first because perhaps this is a new way of doing things. But the more you walk this path of being present and non-judgmental in the moment, the easier it will become,” she explains. “When you are more readily able to pull yourself out of the swirling cloud of thoughts in your head and really be present in the moment, you are more readily able to hold on to the quality of being patient. Perhaps you’ll be better able to say ‘What’s really going on right now?’ and respond mindfully to a situation rather than react with impatience.”
Give yourself a reality check.
Life isn’t like Amazon Prime — you shouldn’t expect overnight delivery or instant gratification. If you’re dealing with a particularly stressful or sticky situation, give yourself time to work it out. “Remind yourself you don’t need to solve the problem immediately. Issues that create big feelings are often complicated and take time to process,” says Marcum. “Consider talking to a mentor, friend, or therapist when you’re in the midst of a very stressful situation.”