Leanna Stockard, MA, AMFT

As a therapist, I often see in session the struggles my clients have with patience. I have experienced couples being frustrated with one another about their conflict cycles continuing, or annoyed with their partner for not doing household chores when asked. I have also heard individuals get frustrated with the traffic that made them late to the sessions, or express frustration with the therapy process as a whole because things are not changing as quickly as they hoped. While these are all valid frustrations, I often ask my clients, “What would it have been like for you to have practiced patience in this situation?”

I recently read a New York Times article titled, “How to Be a More Patient Person.” In this article, author Anna Goldfarb describes helpful tools to increase patience in your life. Goldfarb states, “Patience, the ability to keep calm in the face of disappointment, distress or suffering, is worth cultivating.” We can become negatively impacted by things that happen throughout the day, if we choose to be impatient. According to Goldfarb, being patient has positive effects on our health, and may result in being more empathic and compassionate.

Below are the steps in which Goldfarb advocates to becoming a more patient person:

1) Identify your triggers: when working toward becoming a more patient person, it is important to understand what makes you feel irritated. Goldberg reports that being impatient is often our “fight” response, and we may be responding to the situations that come up as if they “were more dire than they actually were.” If you are able to identify what may trigger your fight response, then you can work toward combating it.

2) Interrupt the cycle and evaluate the risk: in therapy, I generally express importance of interrupting the cycle that may be taking place. For instance, you may have a thought process that communicates to you that a fight response is needed. If you are telling yourself that you are frequently under threat, it will be challenging to interrupt your stress responses.

3) Reframe the experience & connect it to a larger story: once you have identified your triggers, and thoughts that may be perpetuating your stress response cycle, Goldfarb recommends thinking of the experience in a different way. and connecting it to something larger. For instance, if you are irritated with the man going through coupons at the grocery store, attempt to think of how those coupons may be necessary for him to purchase his food for his family at home.

4) Train, don’t try: following these steps will not automatically make you a more patient person. It will be important to practice as often as you can! Goldfarb encourages us to begin practicing patience during times in which the stake is smaller, that way you will have more experience for when the stakes are larger.

5) Consider making lifestyle changes: with your triggers and stress response cycle identified, it may be helpful to be proactive! For instance, if you recognize that you are frequently triggered by your commute, it may be helpful to go to work earlier than rush hour, or stay later to avoid the traffic.

6) Be realistic: attempt to be genuine with what you are expecting during this process. Goldfarb recommends setting reasonable limits and expectations for yourself and others in order to prevent self-sabotage. I often recommend to my clients to focus on how you are improving, and to turn your expectations into appreciation, and use it as motivation to continue to improve.

Things do not often happen right away, or in the way we expect. Patterns and habits take a while to change, and that is okay! If you find yourself struggling with patience, it may be helpful to connect with a therapist! Contact Symmetry Counseling today to get connected with one of our talented clinicians.