Proven Ways to Be More Patient with Yourself (and Others) Starting Now

Getting to the “Other Side” of Your Frustration

Have you ever been in the midst of a particularly stressful moment (Computer not cooperating? Flat tire? Holiday shopping at the mall, on a weekend?) and someone took the time to help you calm down and solve a problem? It can truly feel like that person was sent down, from the heavens, to guide you safely to the “other side” of your panic and frustration.

Though the ability to be patient is a highly valued attribute in others, patience and mindfulness remain elusive skills for most of us who have jobs, families…lives here on planet Earth. Frustration, and the anger that can follow, is a fact of life for every human being. This does NOT mean we’re bad or flawed people⸺it means we have work, families, important stuff to do! We have a lot on our plates, and we tend to prioritize others ahead of ourselves, especially during the holidays, so it’s no wonder we don’t have much time to devote to becoming more patient.

But health experts and research have confirmed that being more patient can significantly benefit our individual health and wellbeing. Practicing patience can also improve our work and communities; it impacts everything we touch and every part of our lives.

Not long after tackling a particularly stressful session of holiday shopping this year, I was lucky enough to chat with Dr. Bernard Golden, author of the book Overcoming Destructive Anger: Strategies That Work, about how impatience can harm us, and how we can better manage it without becoming overwhelmed by the process.

“Patience is key to resilience and a major component of emotional and physical well-being,” Golden notes. “It entails developing skills in self-soothing and calming when facing situations that frustrate us. Whether based on realistic or unrealistic expectations, impatience can lead to feelings such as anxiety and anger and the physiological responses that accompany them. These may include increased levels of cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline. Unfortunately, elevated levels of cortisol contribute to a suppressed immune system and increased blood pressure and blood glucose levels.”

The good news, Golden says, is that we can develop new habits to increase our patience. Some of the strategies he recommends center around breathing (which we just happen to be old pros at!).

“Such practices offer a constructive way of dealing with daily challenges, whether standing in line at the supermarket, inching along on a congested highway, waiting for lab results regarding a medical test, or waiting for a response to a text,” he suggests.

The following are several practices that Golden recommends to help cultivate patience:

  1. Engage in deep breathing. For 3-4 breaths, focus attention on slowly and deeply inhaling and exhaling. Spend ⅓ of the time focused on inhaling and ⅔’s time on exhaling. This has been found to be the most effective pattern to promote physical calmness. However, it is just the first step.

  2. Then relax your breathing, noticing the air entering and leaving your nostrils, or the rise and fall of your chest. This is the focus of attention in many forms of mindfulness meditation.

  3. Practice body relaxation exercises that might include a body scan and progressive relaxation. These practices increase body awareness and serve as rehearsal for evoking calmness when you experience the first signs of impatience.

  4. Distinguish between realistic and unrealistic expectations. Most importantly, recognize when some of your expectations may be based on your emotional brain in the form of hopes and wishes. For example, you may know that traffic is congested during the rush hour, yet still expect the roads to be clear.

  5. Focus attention on observing through all of your senses, when caught up in the throes of impatience. Focusing on observing competes with thinking. It forces us to be in the moment rather than think about what we believe “should” be happening. Notice the sights around you, the people, objects, colors, and shape and composition of objects. Listen to sounds, feel your feet against the ground, your hands on the steering wheel, or your butt on a seat. Feel the air against your face and hands, and notice whether it is cold or warm.

  6. Golden has coined the acronym BEAR as a way of responding to frustration:

 

B – Breathe deeply

 

E – Evoke physical calmness based on practicing body relaxation exercises

 

A – Arouse compassionate internal dialog, i.e. “This is difficult.” “This is what it feels like to feel impatience.” “This is just a feeling and–like all feelings–is temporary and will pass.” Or “I know this is hard and I’m here to help you sit through it.”

 

R – Reflect on expectations and identify those that are more realistic with regard to the present situation.

 

Since most of us are well aware of the toll stress and frustration take on our bodies, but don’t have much in the way of extra time to meditate or attend a yoga class, I asked another wellness expert if there are additional steps we can take, as part of our existing daily routines, to help stop frustration in its tracks.

Randi Ragan, a nationally recognized holistic wellbeing expert and author of A Year Of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nourish Body, Mind and Spirit, recommends these gentle and simple yoga poses that can be done pretty much anywhere (including during a break at work), to help promote patience and quickly decrease stress levels.

HANGING FORWARD/ROLL DOWNS

This pose infuses the brain with fresh blood and oxygen which calms down irritability, anger, and frustration.

  1. Start seated or standing (if possible) and bend forward from the waist.

  2. The head and neck should dangle loosely toward the floor, with arms loosely relaxed as well

  3. Feet planted flat and firmly

  4. Take 5 – 10 deep breaths before rolling up very slowly

  5. Keep eyes closed for a few breaths to re-balance your body in space (and to avoid dizziness)

  6. Roll downs can be done up to 8 cycles

SEATED TWIST

This pose activates the spine, and the spinal fluid, with oxygen and fresh blood, which, in turn calms the brain and settles the nervous system. When the nervous system is settled and oxygenated, then our emotions follow suit. Our brain clears of agitation and we are more likely to focus on peace and calm which manifest in patience.

  1. Face forward in the chair with feet flat on the floor.

  2. Reach around to the right and grab the back of the chair with one or both hands

  3. Close eyes and breath 5 deep breaths

  4. Release on an exhale and turn to the left

  5. Repeat reaching to the right and the left 2 or 3 times

  6. This exercise can be done a few times a day when you need to refresh and clear the mind

Our Support team is the most patient group of people you are likely to meet, because we have been in the trenches. As technology specialists and educators, we know how frustrating it can be to navigate through technology hiccups at work (especially when you have about 500 other things to do!). We are here to help, no matter the question, issue, or time. We will work with you and your team until you are fully satisfied and working efficiently in eSTAR.

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