A Busy Person’s Guide to Patience
By Colin Turpin
Edmond Family Counseling
The car in front of you isn’t paying attention when the light turns green. Your nephew asks you the same question for the 50th time in a row. Your internet connection gets disconnected… again. Life is full of situations that test our patience. The bad news is that it’s natural and easy to let anger take over when we get overwhelmed. The good news is that patience can be learned, and I’m going to show you how.
The first step is to recognize symptoms of frustration in your daily life. While anger can feel like it goes from 0-100, reality is more often a slow building of tension over time that you may not realize until it is too late. Anger has a wide range of expressions between individuals, so being familiar with your flavor of anger is important to catch early. It helps to identify specific reactions such as clenched fists, quickened breathing, or tense muscles. If you need help recognizing your symptoms, ask someone who spends a lot of time with you.
While this is a good start, simply acknowledging your anger won’t just make it disappear; you need to do something about these emotions. You have probably heard of calming techniques like controlling your breathing, taking breaks, or going to your happy place. While these can work to calm your body’s reaction, they aren’t necessarily making you more patient. To truly tolerate uncomfortable situations, you need to change the way that you think about them. Adjusting your mindset could turn enemies into friends, obstacles into challenges, and failures into learning opportunities. While there are hundreds of ways this looks in practice, here are a few tips to get started in changing your thinking:
- Assess your expectations. One avenue toward increasing patience is asking yourself why you are getting mad in the first place. Why is this bothering me so much? What do I want to happen in this situation (and is that realistic)? Is there another explanation for what is going on? Getting yourself to assess your needs in real-time helps you focus on what is important and in your control.
- Take their perspective. Empathy is the process of attempting to feel what another person is feeling. Putting yourself in another's shoes helps you gain insight into why someone is acting the way that they are. Even if you strongly disagree with what they are saying, sharing what they are feeling right now will increase your understanding of their behavior. It is possible to empathize where someone is coming from without endorsing their actions.
- Find humor in the situation. Humor can be an incredibly effective coping strategy during stress. Recognizing how ridiculous or comical the situation is adjusts the way you process information. If you imagine telling this story to a friend later, you're more likely to accept things as they happen and not take yourself so seriously. Humor in your responses can also help diffuse tension within the room or provide a tactful way of setting boundaries without losing your cool.
Anger can come from many different places. Your current emotional state, your previously learned behavior, and your core beliefs about the world may also come into play. This act of viewing yourself from the third person helps you take a step back and get out of the immediate bodily reactions that so often dominate our responses. If you want to talk more about changing your thinking or would like help making these changes, seek out a mental health professional in your area.
Colin Turpin, MA, LPC-C, is a staff therapist at Edmond Family Counseling. Edmond Family Counseling is a non-profit organization. We may be reached at 405-341-3554 to schedule an appointment with one of our professional counselors. Follow us on our Facebook page @Edmond Family Counseling for additional information regarding mental health awareness.