I work with many clients who are stressed out for a variety of reasons, whether it is related to school, work, friends, family, or their romantic relationship. Some clients even discuss that due to feeling highly stressed, they have a tendency to become angry quickly and lose their patience with a coworker, friend, partner, or perhaps even themselves.
We live in a society where people move fast all of the time. I often encourage clients to practice mindfulness techniques when feeling rushed, stressed, angry, anxious, or sad. Taking a minute to just breathe can help reduce their anger and decrease the quick response of impatience. I recently read an article from the New York Times, “How To Be a More Patient Person” by author Anna Goldfarb who touched on this very topic.
Below is a simple guide based on Goldfarb’s recommendations on how to become a more patient person when feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or angry.
- What are my triggers? Step one in reducing being quick tempered and increasing patience is understanding your triggers or the causes contributing to your anger. M.J Ryan, author of “The Power of Patience: How this Old-Fashioned Virtue can Improve your Life” defines impatience as the “fight” in the fight or flight response. This fight response stems from the amygdala, which is nervous tissue in our brain that sorts out threats and regulates emotions. The amygdala certainly helped our ancestors from actual threats, but it is not as adaptable for our current stressors, such as driving to work during rush hour. Our amygdala has difficulty in assessing true danger from just minor frustrations. Reflecting on your triggers is step one of moving toward becoming a more patient individual.
- Break the cycle. Now that you have identified your triggers, visualize being in that stressful environment. While visualizing this scenario, practice looking at it as objectively as you can. Then ask yourself, what is the worst-case scenario for being stuck in traffic? Is it life or death? No, being stuck in traffic is not life or death. Sure, it is annoying, but it is only temporary.
- Reframe. Sarah Schnitker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, discusses the theory of cognitive reappraisal, which is essentially looking at situations in a different way. If you are frustrated with your friend for being late to dinner, think of a time you too were late to a dinner. Practice giving grace to others and attempt to realize this can help you grow as individual.
- Practice makes perfect. The only way to truly become more patient is to practice these strategies on a daily basis. If you want to be more patient, you can practice by telling yourself to be patient! It takes time to change behaviors in order to reach goals. It can also be helpful to practice these strategies in less stressful scenarios in which the risks are not as high.
- Lifestyle changes. Once you have identified the scenarios that make you inpatient, and are continuing to practice your perception of the scenario, attempt to make some lifestyle changes. For example, if you notice that your favorite coffee shop is always busy right at 9am, attempt to go earlier or later in the day. Making these changes will reduce the stress in your life.
While this guide provided steps to becoming a more patient person, try to focus on the one(s) that you think will help you most, as you truly know yourself more than anyone else. Once you identify what works best, try to be consistent with it.
If you are currently struggling with being patient, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.