Do you get frustrated when things don’t happen as planned? Employing a touch of patience and slowing down could be the answer to reducing your stress levels
Patience. Some people seem to be born with it in swathes, while many struggle even to wait for the kettle to boil. And, if you fall into this latter camp, you’ll know just how hard it is to extinguish the fiery frustration that rises up inside when something doesn’t go according to plan – whether it’s a slow driver making you late, a toddler throwing a tantrum, or the delay of an important promotion. But could those of us who react in this way learn to curb our impatience, and could this improve our health and happiness? According to experts, the answer is a resounding yes – on both fronts.
“Impatience belongs to the family of anxiety and stress, which can get out of control if we don’t learn how to manage it,” explains Jacqueline Harvey, a qualified coach, NLP expert and the founder of natural health clinic Crystal Clear Health Live (cchlive.com). “It can have a negative effect on our mood and energy and, if unchecked, can develop into other feelings such as anger and frustration.” Just like stress and anxiety, this can cause you to feel sapped of energy and become unstable within yourself. “Learning to be more patient allows you to acknowledge the challenges that occur in life and helps you overcome them, as well as become more accepting of results and consequences,” she adds. The problem is that today’s modern living encourages impatience on many levels.
“The more that we have seen technology improve, the more we have become accustomed to almost instantaneous results,” says mindfulness practitioner and advanced hypnotherapist Jo Howarth, who’s also the founder of The Happiness Club (thehappinessclub.co.uk). “We no longer want to wait for something to happen. We’re impatient to see the results of our efforts and to be able to see, do and have immediately. We have forgotten the art of slowing down, letting things happen naturally and appreciating the world around us.” Just how can we learn to check our impatience and become better at waiting for things to happen in their own time? Our experts have the following advice.
1. Think about what you have control over: It’s often the thought of things being out of our control that makes us feel stressed or anxious – and the same is true when looking at the reasons behind our impatience. “Impatience is often focused on other people delivering or sometimes not delivering things on time,” says Jo. “But if you concentrate on the things that you can change, instead of the things that you can’t, you will instantly feel as if a huge weight has been taken off your shoulders.”
2. Practise positivity: It’s amazing how a positive mindset can change the way you approach events, and Jo recommends starting each day with an upbeat outlook on what you’ve got on your plate for this very reason. “By doing this and envisioning how you would like your day to pan out, you are getting yourself in the right frame of mind. Then, if a curve ball comes your way, you’re able to see it as a challenge that can be overcome, instead of getting impatient about finding a solution,” she explains. Jacqueline also advises using positive thinking when approaching a situation that’s making you feel frustrated. “You could try making a list of the positive outcomes that will happen if you do not get what you’re waiting for – this is a great way to look at your situation in a more optimistic way and reduce the stress of impatience,” she says.
3. Breathe: “It sounds like an obvious thing to say, but making the time to take five deep breaths three times a day will help you slow down and appreciate what you have going for you,” says Jo. “During these times, focus on something that makes you smile. It works wonders for helping to reset your mind and get you back into thinking positively.”
4. Remove yourself from the situation: If something is making you feel anxious or impatient, Jacqueline suggests trying to detach yourself from it if you can – either physically or emotionally. “This allows us to desensitise our emotions from a situation where our feelings may escalate from impatience to frustration, anger or resentment,” she says. “It also helps us to achieve a more balanced view of what we want and allows us to develop better coping strategies for dealing with disappointment or not getting what we want easily.” Jo agrees: “You could simply count to 10 or try going for a quick five-minute walk to get some fresh air so you have a new perspective on the problem,” she says.
5. Think things through: Remember, some things in life are worth waiting for and, often, it’s the big dreams that take the longest to achieve. You may want to move into a house you’ve just viewed immediately and feel frustrated by the paperwork that needs to be completed first, but checks and measures like this are representative of the importance of taking our time to do things properly. “If we get what we want quickly, we may not have necessarily thought of all the repercussions,” Jacqueline warns. “Fast results usually carry a number of consequences, and we may regret our hasty actions and wish we had taken a different course. Hurrying sometimes means the quality of what we achieve is reduced, too,” she adds. “Results don’t always occur without challenges or obstacles, and both of these can help us to slow down and check all aspects of our decisions.”
6. Distract yourself: Sometimes distraction is the only way forward. If you’re awaiting results from a recent hospital appointment, or are desperate to find out what school or university your child will be heading to, the only thing you can do is wait. In this case, what Jacqueline calls displacement activities can be useful. “Distract yourself or focus on another activity to take your mind away from waiting for the situation to change or news to arrive,” she advises.
I can be terrible for treating life like a to-do list. As I’m striking something off, I’m already thinking about what’s next. Lockdown forced me to change that. It gave me a chance to think about all my to-dos more carefully – the big ones and the small ones. Patience has always felt, to me, like an unimportant middle part between creating a task and getting it done. Lockdown taught me that it’s actually the most magical moment of the process.
Before COVID, I was travelling to see friends or attending family gatherings; my diary was always bursting with plans. But when my busy weekends came to an abrupt stop, the pang of guilt I felt by simply doing ‘nothing’ disappeared, giving me the chance to slow down, reflect and not speed through life at 100 mph.
When the world moves fast, I pace it, running alongside it like a miniature Dachshund with a leggy owner, trying to keep up. I think my main fear is that I’ll miss out on something. Lockdown put the brakes on everything, not just for me, but for everyone else, too. Taking a ‘walk not run’ approach to life has definitely made me more mindful. I think I may have even caught my breath back.
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