Life is a constant test of patience. From traffic, to annoying people, to waiting, waiting, waiting for something you want. If you lack patience, if you don’t allow things to unfold, if you don’t learn to give things a chance, if you don’t compel yourself to stop, breathe, and think, you can lose out on a lot. Love is patient. I remember reading it in front of a packed church at my brother’s wedding. Basically, if you love someone, you will learn to be patient with them. I also think it means that in order to be patient, you have to love where you are now, as you wait for a better tomorrow.
This pandemic has been a gauntlet of patience. Think about it for a moment: You’re stuck indoors. You see the same people, 24/7, without the buffer of work, errands, or outings. Or you don’t get to see anyone at all because of the lockdown. So here we all are, waiting, with bated breath, for a vaccination, for a drop in cases, for that unknown moment in the future when we can say everything is fine – where we can go outside, shop for groceries without fear, and touch elevator buttons again. This is patience, ninja level.
If, like me, you’re finding your patience and mental fortitude being tested, here are some tips:
Try to understand the underlying motive behind a person’s actions. People are afraid. Fear is the basis of many rash decisions. And a lot of people will refuse to admit when they are afraid, because they don’t want to appear weak, so they express it in other ways – through anger, hate, mockery, bullying, or cold indifference. So the next time that person at the grocery store takes all the toilet paper, or gets upset because you’re not maintaining a distance of 2 meters, ask yourself, “What might this person be feeling right now for him or her to react in this manner? How would I feel if I were in his or her shoes?” And the next time you argue with your partner or a family member, stop and think, “What’s motivating this reaction? What’s motivating my reaction?” Take the time to actually think about the current circumstances from someone else’s perspective.
Adopt the “1-5-10” philosophy. When you find yourself getting annoyed with a person or a situation, ask yourself the following question: “Will this matter to me in 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years?” If the answer is “yes,” then take active steps to find a compromise or resolution to the issue. If the answer is “no,” then take it as a sign that the issue is not worth getting worked up about.
Cross-examine your reaction to emotionally charged situations. For example, imagine you’re in the grocery store parking lot. You’re patiently waiting for a person to pull out of her parking spot, when another driver sneaks in and takes the place. Stop. Breathe. Examine.
“I really want to get back at this driver – but what would that achieve? I’d be getting myself worked up, my blood pressure would rise, and I’d be sinking to his level. I’d probably enjoy the retribution, but it would be temporary. I’d probably still be angry after anyway. Is it worth it?”
Essentially, rather than giving in to an impatient impulse, do a quick reality check with yourself. In at least some cases, you will realize that getting upset over minor issues is just not worth.
Become a ninja. Or Yoda. Or Mr. Miyagi. Think of a character or person you admire for always being cool, calm, and collected. When you find yourself in a situation that you know will test your patience, embody that character – become them. Would your character yell, or remain serenely above it all? Would he or she slam doors in frustration, or simply take a deep breath and sit calmly? It sounds silly, but it works.
That being said…Don’t let your frustration reach a boiling point. Pent-up emotions need to find their way out, much like turning a pressure valve to relieve steam. How to do that depends on what works for you. You can talk things out with someone, burn things off at the gym or by scrubbing your bathroom. You can meditate, you can write out your feelings, or express them in a poem. You can do a jigsaw puzzle, or my personal favorite, color a picture. Find what works for you.
I do have one caveat here: Don’t use unhealthy methods for relieving frustration or stress, like self-medicating, self-harm, drinking, smoking, or emotional eating. Yes, they may make you feel better, but they do much more harm than good, and they always come with a catch: You will simply be replacing one problem with another.
Find the lesson. I am strongly believe that things happen for a reason. Certain people come into our lives, and certain events occur, at just the right time, in order to teach us something. As my beloved Sherlock Holmes once said about life being a series of coincidences, “The universe is never that lazy.” Every moment that tests your patience is teaching you a lesson. Maybe you need to be kinder to others, or to yourself. Maybe you need to learn to recognize the “energy vampires” in your life, and cast them out. Maybe you need to work less, stop and smell the roses more, or rethink your priorities. Maybe you need to stop complaining. Maybe you need to say “I love…” more and “I hate…” less. Maybe you need to take a break from the news for a bit, and do something wholesome for your soul. Find the lesson that your current circumstances, and the people that frustrate you, are trying to teach you.
Don’t forget to check out Queendom’s free Pandemic Resilience Test.