Whether it’s waiting to hear back about something important, waiting to move in with a partner until you get to know each other better, waiting to make a big purchase that you can’t afford just yet, or waiting in line outside a store, waiting sucks. It can feel like everything is on hold until that thing you’re waiting for comes to be. It can feel like there’s no reason you can’t just have it right now. It can feel like your time is being wasted in the meantime. Doubt, frustration, anger, and resentment might creep in.
Patience with others, patience with ourselves, and patience with the situations we find ourselves in isn’t a skill that some people have and some people don’t. It’s learned. Having it can help us be better friends and partners, think longer term, and be more grounded and relaxed with how we approach all parts of our lives. If you want to learn to be patient, here’s where to start.
Stay Present in the World Around You
Staying in the present is easier said than done. But if you’re capable of being present with where you are now, it will get easier to stop jumping ahead to where you think you’re supposed to be. Start by literally grounding yourself, right this minute. Name five things around you that you can see or five noises around you that you can hear. (If you have access to both, do both.) What taste is in your mouth? What do your clothes feel like against your skin? Sometimes getting better at being patient is as simple as starting with getting better at being in our bodies and surroundings. When you feel impatience creep in, use this exercise as a place to start.
Investigate Where the Sense of Urgency Comes From
Figuring out where your impatience comes from can also be part of getting better at handling it. For instance, if you often get frustrated at waiting in line at the grocery store, journal about what else you might be feeling. Do you wait until you’re already hungry to shop? Do you not leave enough time for errands? Are you actually frustrated with or scared about the pandemic’s impact on the world right now, and your impatience with grocery lines is easier to focus on than the bigger picture? Something else? Getting to the bottom of your impatience won’t immediately solve it, but it can provide clues to why you feel the way you do and how you might move forward.
Of course, impatience around grocery lines is a little more straightforward to investigate than impatience around relationships. If you find yourself constantly unable to stay present instead of fast-forwarding up the relationship escalator of dating, moving in together, and marriage; fixating relentlessly on the next time you’ll see each other; or even constantly looking at your phone while you wait for her to text back, you might benefit from investigation. Is it that you’re depending on a partner to make you feel whole? Insecure in the relationship and hoping that taking a step together will give you reassurance? Doing what you think relationships are “supposed to” be like? Good relationships take time. Just like with other contexts, journaling and reflecting on your patterns can help – so can working with a therapist to figure out what else is going on.
Meditation can be a tool you reach for in moments of distress. But a meditation or mindfulness practice will only start to be a functional tool in your toolbox if you do it regularly, not just in emergency moments. Luckily, you can start right now. Set a timer for two minutes, and for the entire two minutes, try to only focus on the sensation of your breath as it goes into and out of your body. It’s harder than it sounds! You can also practice doing only one task at a time, whether that’s eating, working, exercise, or catching up with a friend – particularly if you normally combine all of the above.
Set Yourself Up for Success
When you’re tired, hungry, and pent up, it can be much harder to sit with uncomfortable feelings. Foundational self-care like a regular and sufficient sleep schedule, eating in ways that feel good to your body, spending time outside, using a physical outlet like exercise if it’s available to you, using creative outlets, and making time for friends will support you in many areas of your life, as well as with being more patient.
Be – Yup – Patient with Yourself as You Practice Patience
Part of being patient is practicing sitting with uncomfortable feelings. That means that there’s no way to get better at it immediately right now. The more you practice patience, the easier it will be.