How to Find Patience in an Impatient World

“Patience and fortitude conquer all things.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you ever notice yourself getting impatient wanting people and things to move faster?

Maybe you’re stuck behind a slow driver in the fast lane, or you’re waiting for a reply call or text, or you’re waiting for the internet to load. Or maybe you become impatient when someone is delayed, or whenever you have to wait and do nothing.

Impatience is a common experience in our modern fast-paced world when things don’t go to plan.

Going slowly when we want to go quickly can be frustrating and send us, and our brains, into reactive mode.

The long term side effects of this type of behaviour come with several health and wellbeing warnings. Therefore, it’s of value to explore how we can prevent impatience from taking hold.

How can we find patience in an impatient world? 

Understanding Impatience

Impatience can be best understood by the words of German philosopher Georg W. F. Hegel. He once said, “Impatience asks for the impossible, wants to reach the goal without the means of getting there.”

This insight typifies the frustration that arises from being unable to do something we want to do.

It’s a feeling of rising stress that starts when we feel that our needs are not being met. This seems to be a growing problem in the modern world where our expectations for instant gratification is being delayed.

Typically it relates to 3 areas of stress:

  • unpleasant experiences,
  • pressure or urgency
  • The lack of control.

To overcome these feelings we are trying to move as quickly as we can into the future. Impatience is resistance and dissatisfaction to the way things are.

Impatience is a form of aversion. This term refers to our mistaken belief that if we could get rid of something we will be happy.

Research is starting to highlight the negative consequences of allowing impatience to dominate our lives.

A study back in the 80s connected impatience with irritability and a higher risk of heart problems. More recently, research has associated impatience with the inability to handle stressors and practice self-control.

Similarly, other research has linked impatience with loneliness, depression and negative emotions.

From a health perspective, it becomes an important endeavour to overcome our impatient.

When we learn to recognise the early warning signals of impatience and distract our awareness towards any aspect of the present moment the agitations and frustrations relating to impatience tend to subside.

Patience then becomes a virtue.

So how can we go about nurturing patience in our lives?

Identify your Impatience Triggers

The first step is to get familiar with our impatience triggers and symptoms.

What does impatience look like to you?

It can be useful to reflect on how our impatience has grown over the years. Were your parents impatient? Did you find school years cause you to become impatient?

Impatience has a range of symptoms. Body signals vary for each of us.

You may experience mood changes. There may be increased heart rate, agitation, anger, anxiety or irritability. Physical signs can include shallow, fast breathing, muscle tension, and tight hand clenching.

As we become more aware of the signals of losing our patience, we need to start paying close attention to the things that trigger us to lose that patience.

For example, is it when you find yourself stuck in traffic?

Or do you notice your patience start to wear thin when you are in long slow-moving lines waiting to be served at the bank or supermarket?

Certain triggers will raise their head more frequently than others — these are the things you should focus on the most.

At these times it’s useful to recognise what type of feelings and emotions are triggered. What typically arises for you?  Identify what emotion is at the heart of that response.

Are you anxious that you’re not going to get to work on time?

Are you angry that you can’t get your needs met faster?

Make a list of all the things that cause you to become impatient. What pushes your buttons most?

If you’re not sure, ask someone you are close to. They will have a clear idea about what fires you up.

If impatience is a big problem for you it might be of value to start examining your actions to better understand why you respond the way you do.

Try recording your thoughts and feelings in a journal when you start to feel impatient. Write down the details of the situation, and why you’re getting frustrated.

You won’t always be able to avoid the triggers that make you impatient. Nonetheless, you can learn to manage your reactions to them.

7 Ideas to Help Manage the Symptoms of Impatience

Remember, you do have a choice about how you react to certain situations. You can choose to be patient, or not: it’s up to you.

If you can become a little bit more aware when you’re more irritable and reactive, you can change to become a more patient person.

When you feel impatient, it’s important to get out of this damaging frame of mind as quickly as possible. Try to develop strategies to deal with your impatience as you notice it.

Here are 7 ideas that might help:

1. Take Slow Deep Breaths.

When you feel yourself starting to lose your patience and get frustrated or angry, just stop and focus on slow deep breaths.

This process will slow your heart rate, relax your body, and help to regulate your emotions.  Sometimes you might need to repeat the process several times. But it works! When you’re done, most of the impulses to yell or do something out of frustration will have gone away.

2. Reframe How you Think about the Situation.

Moments of high stress can distort our perception of reality, making us feel like the world is out to get us. The next time you feel anger boiling up; try to check your perspective.

Rather than letting your impatience grow make the choice to challenge your negative assumptions about the situation.

Aim to reframe the conditions in a more positive light. Reverse the situation. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Remember, whatever’s triggering your impatience isn’t all about you.

For example, the woman at the front of the line whose credit card keeps declining didn’t wake up with the sole purpose of disrupting your day- sh*t happens! Maybe a bit of empathy for her situation might help ease the pain. Similarly, the broken down car causing havoc with the traffic on the way into work wasn’t that drivers ideal start to the day either.

3. Find Healthy Ways to Release the Frustration.

Frustration can build up like steam in a pressure cooker, so if we don’t release that steam, we’ll explode. So find ways to relieve that frustration in a healthier way. Once you get that frustration out of your system, you usually feel better.

Outbursts won’t serve us well, so finding a healthy outlet for negative emotions is a useful skill for anyone, and for any unwanted feelings.

It could be as simple as venting our frustrations by talking to a trusted friend. Allowing ourselves space to express some of our frustrations prevents them from boiling up inside.

Similarly, other options include maybe taking some time to meditate, go for a run, listen to some soothing music or just let out a scream to release the resistance and agitation might help.

4. Take a Time Out.

Take a quick walk around the block, or simply walk away from the cause of your impatience. A quick break can help you to clear your head and approach the issue with problem-solving reasoning rather than unhelpful impatience.

Take a break from the situation, just for 5-10 minutes, and let yourself calm down.

5. Force Yourself to Slow Down.

In a world full of instant expectation, it’s too easy to fall into the habit of becoming frustrated when things don’t happen as quickly as we would like.

Therefore, practising making ourselves slow down is another great way to overcome impatience.

We need to think of patience not as resignation but as the active and intentional practice of stepping back, slowing down, and then making our move when we know the time is right.

Studies have shown “slowing down to speed up” really works. Rather than forcing the issue it’s more effective to take the time to reflect and learn.

6. Remind Yourself That You Are Simply Uncomfortable

Sometimes, minutes can feel like they stretch on for an eternity.

When you are in situations like being put on hold or stuck in traffic it can feel extremely uncomfortable. You are waiting with little control over the situation.

However, try to remember you are simply uncomfortable. These situations are not impossible, or life-threatening. Everyone goes through it at some stage or another.

So even though it may not be enjoyable, it is certainly bearable. Learning to identify and accept discomfort makes it easier to cope with.

7. Keep Practising.

It might sound simple, but practising patience truly is a valid way to improve your patience. After all, how do we go about improving any life skill?  

It takes time to form a new habit, and the only way to achieve your goal is to simply keep trying.

Everyday life provides plentiful opportunities to practice your patience. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Take Away Message

Hopefully, some of these ideas will appeal to you if you struggle to make patience a virtue.

Ultimately, having patience with ourselves helps cultivate deeper patience for the world around us. Patience isn’t easy, but the alternative is much worse.

Personally, patience is something I’ve been cultivating for a long time. Although I often fail, I believe I’ve progressed over the years, and things that used to get me hot and bothered now just float on by. I still get upset, but not nearly as much as I used to.

If you find impatience is reaping havoc in your life I strongly recommend trying to incorporate some of the practices above into your daily life.

When things speed up, we should slow down — and watch the wonderful results that patience brings.

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