For most of us these last 18 months of living in isolation and having to avoid going into public places has seemed endless. Most of us have experienced high degrees of anxiety, stress, loneliness, fear and at times a desperation to return to normal.
As things begin to open up, even if we never get back to the way things used to be, we at least see some signs of being freer to be outside in groups, and overall feel like we are no longer trapped by the potential to catch the virus.
In our eagerness to have things change to becoming more normal, we can feel disappointed when it seems like things take forever to shift back to the way it was. When and where do we have to wear masks? Do we still need to stay 6 apart from others? Do we still need to use approved hand sanitizers? Is it safe to go to the grocery stores? To movies? To restaurants?
These are days when we need high levels of patience in order to make this transition time bearable to gradually return to our new normal.
Here is some good notes, however. Patience is something we can cultivate. We certainly are not born with a lot of patience as witnessed by kids who need to be immediately attended to. It is only over time that we gain some patience, and for some more than others.
Let us take a look at what patience is all about and how we can increase it in ourselves and others.
According to Google, patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” When we are patient, we are not feeling there has to be immediate answers or quick solutions to the problems created by Covid.
Encouragement to be patient is found in many verses in the Bible. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Romans 12:12 tells us, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Implied in these and other verses is the concept that we have the power to choose to be patient.
INC website offers tips to help us become more patient. Here they suggest that everyone wants instant gratification. I would add that impatience and the expectation of immediate gratification has become part of our culture with the advent of things like Google and all the many ways we shop online and have delivery the next day. We text each other and expect an instant response. Think about how the microwave oven is a relatively new household appliance and then there are fully cooked meals that can be dropped at your doorstep. No wonder we have been conditioned to not wait!
Here is what the article suggests we do to increase our levels of patience:
First is that we make ourselves wait for things “A study published in Psychological Science shows that waiting for things actually makes us happier in the long run. Start with something small like waiting a few extra minutes to drink that milkshake and then move on to something bigger. You will begin to gain more patience as you practice.”
Second, stop doing things that are not important. Evaluate what you are thinking you need to do and eliminate anything that is not essential. Sometimes our impatience comes from the stress of trying to meet self-impose demands on our time.
Third, be mindful of things that are making you impatient. Basically, learn to notice what the thoughts, feelings and sensations of impatience are for you. These are feelings like frustration, agitation and concern that we are not meeting our own or others’ expectations and they will be disappointed. Make a list of what you decide you need to do and take time moving through the list without rushing yourself.
The fourth suggestion is to do some mindful breathing. I would go a step further and say notice what your body is telling you. Notice what you are thinking. Be an “impatience detective” and then pause to appreciate that impatience can be a source of great stress and therefore is not healthy for you.
Another helpful resource I found is from the website Chartwell. The authors share the following: “Practicing kindness and patience can help individuals and communities cope better with pandemic challenges and overcome pandemic fatigue. The time-tested virtues of kindness and patience can also improve overall health by activating feel-good brain chemicals, bolstering the mind, easing chronic pain, and strengthening immunity. Other health benefits include lifting your mood, protecting your heart, and slowing biological aging.”
They go on to share some of the specific neurochemicals we have the power to activate when we are being kind, which really is a part of being patient with ourselves and others. These behaviors… “activate the brain chemical oxytocin, known as the bonding hormone, reports Mayo Clinic. Kindness [and patience] also stimulates the brain’s reward centers, boosting brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine.”
We cannot control the timing for all the external stresses that surround us as the process begins to open up our world and attempt to return to some kind of new normal. What we can control is our reaction to all this.
Learning to be more patient is a gift we can give ourselves and others. It certainly can provide a boost in the health of our relationships, especially with children and other family members. By becoming more patient, we are better able to pause and hear what other people need. We are less likely to communicate messages of disapproval and disappointment and instead communicate messages of acceptance, appreciation and compassion.
Please be patient with yourself as you work to increase your patience! 🙂
Invitation for Reflection
- To what extent do you consider yourself a patient person? What has contributed to this?
- What are some specific ways you might increase your patience levels?
- How can you help others be more mindful of their ability to be patient? What are some things that might help them gain greater patience?
Diane Wagenhals, Director, Lakeside Global Institute