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How does waiting really make you feel?
Patience is easy enough until we are the ones that have to exercise it under pressure. Our desires put on hold strike deep fear in us especially as we get older and ‘wiser.’ Waiting can conjure up anxious feelings, especially since living in the back drop of Covid, patience has been a harder pill to swallow. Although the realisation of waiting isn’t a new concept – it seems to never get easier with age. It is something we all struggle with.
Covid has only highlighted the problem - the unknown and our powerlessness to control it, but if we’re truthful this is a problem we’ve been experiencing from the very beginning – when we entered the waiting room of life. Whilst being locked down at home with our own thoughts for company and endless time, waiting has become our new state of normal which has pushed us all closer to the cliff edge of impatience. Waiting can be ridden with anxiety or anticipation, but for most anxiety is the predominating power that overrides.
What do you think is worth waiting for?
Waiting for a test result, an urgent email, a job promotion, an answer, an invitation, a question, slow wifi connection, slow drivers, a package to be delivered, a traffic jam, a friend, a partner, a kettle to boil, a download, life to begin, life to end…..Waiting is an inescapable part of life.
So how are you doing with it? Do you even know?
A few ways to know how waiting makes you feel is your mindfulness of the last time you waited in the traffic or at the drive-thru behind someone who is apparently ordering everything on the menu or for software to be updated as your sending an email or even the uncomfortable wait for a friend? How did you feel? Angry and anxious or understanding and open to interruption. Did you wait?
We all know how hard children find waiting but as we get older waiting can be difficult for different reasons. Men in particular find waiting a lot more difficult than women. ‘Time is money’ after all and sometimes our own currency becomes more valuable than another person’s.
Maybe as we are heading south past middle age, our time lived and time left becomes more evident. Of course, we do not know how long any of us have left but we do feel our own mortality more keenly.
When the 9th President of the USA died, it took 110 days for the news of his death to reach Los Angeles. And we think we wait a long time!!
We live in an ‘insta’ culture where instant gratification is just the other side of a click of a button. The cultural shift whereby technology has opened the gateway to our own efficiency has also raised the bar on our own impatience We have become so accustomed in the Western world to valuing speed that we have cut corners on the time it takes to grow stronger roots and bear greater fruit in the process. We realise perhaps that patience isn’t our strong point. What’s the use of making healthy choices and new resolutions to change our lifestyle when we fly into a rage at the drop of a hat. The average Brit’s patience lasts only 2.5 minutes when kept waiting – maybe this accounts for our anger issues while waiting for the Learner driver to parallel park or at the old pensioner who stayed 2 minutes too long after completing his transaction chatting with the bank clerk.
The age old saying “Patience is a virtue” we realise is actually much harder to live out and a virtue we must practice.
Impatience is connected with high stress levels which can result in a higher risk of heart problems. Research has linked impatience to the inability to handle stressors and practice self-control. It will alter your mood and cause you to be more angry, irritable, frustrated and anxious. Impatient behaviour has also been linked to the aging of our cells, suggesting that being more impatient might speed up the aging process in our bodies (as opposed to how our cells would age if we act more patiently.)
If life’s small and large annoyances make you feel like you’ve blown your stack, popped your cork, lost your marbles, got bats in your belfry and knots in your noodle then that means we need to cultivate patience.
The practice of patience has been likened to being athletic.
“Some people are naturally athletic and others are less inclined, but even the most un-athletic person can train and get better, no matter what base level you start from. The same is the case with patience; with practice, you can get better responding with patience.”
What are the ways in which we can train ourselves to be better at waiting?
Practice mindfulness. Be in the present moment. Sit quietly and notice your breath. Notice what distracts you from your breath, then ease yourself back into awareness of your breath. Take time to identify when you get most impatient. When you feel angry that you didn’t get home faster, anxious that you might not make it to your appointment on time – know how that makes you feel.
Practice accepting your current circumstances. This may mean being stuck in traffic or stuck in a job you hate. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to change things if you need to. It only means accepting your experience in the moment for exactly what it is.
Know your blind spots. Get to know yourself better. Understand what your trigger is. What do you think or feel right before you lose it? Understand it and uncover the insecurity. Once you understand it you can work on doing calming exercises and breathing techniques. Time isn’t just about you. Be empathetic – the train isn’t packed this morning just so you can’t have a seat. The cashier didn’t take a break just so your shopping checkout would take longer.
Patience and confidence can go hand in hand. Going with the flow and having the confidence to deal with life as it happens is the difference between exerting more energy than necessary swimming against the current or conserving energy and swimming with it.
Know your blind spots.
Actively build a tolerance for waiting even if it’s uncomfortable. Let other people go ahead of you in line or in traffic. Resist the urge to scratch an itch. Don’t act on every impulse to check your phone. Practice making yourself wait. This muscle when strengthened will get stronger and you will become more resilient. If you can master being patient with the micro detail of life this will carry over to the macro moments.
When you’re feeling rushed, consciously slow down. You don’t have to feel like a hamster on a wheel all of the time. Know that you can choose the slow setting when you want to. In a culture that prizes speed, know that there is value to be had in slow too. Why are you in such a hurry? Try to keep an open perspective and don’t give yourself useless stress.
Release tension and stress. Impatience is in most cases pent up stress, tension and anxiety. In moments when you feel like you can’t be honest and release to a boss, co-worker or friend, we absorb negative energy and stress that needs to find a release. Good ways to release are: exercising regularly, taking time for short meditations and podcasts, doing breathing exercises, practicing ‘Me’ time and being able to track your feelings and triggers and confiding in close friends – a problem shared is a problem halved.
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Practice acting like a kid sometimes. Sing, laugh, joke. Actively try to take yourself less seriously.
Practice gratitude – how is your perspective? Are you always looking for the negative or are you able to find the beauty and positives in even the worst situations. If practiced there can be positives to every situation including having to wait. Slowly practice gratitude in the missed moments because maybe you got some steps in when you missed that bus, or you fit in a coffee stop and quick read while waiting for the next train. Over time with consistency this positive spin will reduce tension in your life.
Don’t be in such a hurry. Whether it’s a work project that’s gone off the rails, a problem in your relationship or something in your home that’s literally broken. Resist the urge to fix everything immediately. Remember not everything is instant.
Practice being a good listener. Listen carefully to what family members or other people are saying. Focus on understanding, rather than on formulating your response.
No one said ever that increasing your patience is easy. But, with daily practice, you may find you’re calmer, less frazzled and more willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. Patience is not the absence of action, rather it is timing that action for the right time.
If life is a journey then we must make connections – connections take time. Time is precious but we can still make the most of this precious time when we stop thinking of time as ‘wasted’ and put it in its proper place of ‘waiting’ - there we can not only endure but endure well.
TOP 20 THINGS THAT MAKE US LOSE OUR COOL 1. SLOW INTERNET 2. PEOPLE WHO WALK OR DRIVE SLOWLY 3. BEING ON HOLD 4. TRAFFIC 5. WAITING FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE LATE 6. PEOPLE IGNORING YOUR CALLS 7. PEOPLE NOT LISTENING 8. WAITING IN FOR A DELIVERY 9. QUEUING AT THE POST OFFICE 10. BAD SPELLING AND GRAMMAR 11. PEOPLE BREAKING THE RULES 12. DELAYED TRAINS 13. QUEUING AT A BAR 14. CHILDREN ASKING THE SAME QUESTIONS OVER AND OVER AGAIN 15. TRYING TO GET A GP OR DENTIST APPOINTMENT 16. SPAM 17. CYCLISTS 18. TRYING TO GET THE BILL IN A RESTAURANT 19. PEOPLE SPENDING AGES IN A PUBLIC TOILET 20. LISTENING TO PEOPLE ARGUE
This applies to almost everything we do, we all seem to want instant results be it dieting, exercising or learning a new skill. We all want to go from zero to max in little time, the old saying all good things come to those that wait is very true. Things just take time.
People often equate quality with speed, hence the rush. But taking things slowly, or as they come, also has its benefits. Before you know it, it's all over and you missed everything.
I am definitely impatient, in fact just this week I had cold coffee as I couldn't wait for the kettle to boil and then had to remake the coffee ! I am going to take a long breath and take life a little more slowly and thoughtfully. It does make me mad though when I see people texting in cars ! Surely they can wait or even pull over, so that its safe for all, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and even their fellow passengers.