A few years ago I was at the store looking for something unique to hang on the wall in my counseling office. Scouring shelves of artwork, I finally came across a piece with a butterfly near the top and the words “Patience in the present; Faith in the future; Joy in the doing.” I thought it was perfect for the type of work I do so I bought the piece and it has since been hanging in the office.
From time to time I’ll catch myself looking at the quote in between my sessions and wondering if I myself am having patience in the present, faith in the future and joy in the doing. The answer is sometimes, “no.” In a world where expectations are high and we have technology which we allow to keep us working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, having patience can be particularly difficult. We want to get things done. We want to achieve. We want what we want when we want it.
So, how can we teach ourselves to slow down and have patience when life is whipping by at lightening fast speeds? Here are three steps that can lead us back to the present, build our patience and help us to get more accomplished.
1. Breathe deeply!
How many times have you caught yourself feeling so rushed that you get dizzy or disoriented? It’s not uncommon for those who are impatient to subsequently experience heightened levels of anxiety and shortness of breath. Being on the go continuously, we can fail to notice that we’re not breathing appropriately. The number one skill I aim to teach my clients is to breathe! Deeply! Taking the time to slow down, breathe air deep into the lungs and out again, has been shown to lower the heart rate and can decrease levels of anxiety. I usually then ask them to try the following two steps…
2. Remind yourself that you are where you are for a reason.
There are so many times when I’m driving down the highway and I get behind someone driving well below the posted speed limit. I can’t always get around the vehicle and that’s when I may notice my impatience increasing. “Oh, come on!” I might exclaim as I’m forced to slow my vehicle. However, by shifting my thinking from “they are in my way” to “I’m right where I need to be in this moment,” I can focus on driving responsibly and having patience for the other person. I’ll also sometimes tell myself that I don’t know what is going on for the person driving the car slowly and that they may have good reason (new driver, difficulty seeing, car problems, a new baby on board, etc.). Once you remind yourself that you are where you are for a reason, then…
3. Bring your attention to only what you need to do right now, in this moment.
When we have demands coming at us from all directions, we can feel as if we’ll never catch up. This can lead to increased levels of anxiety and sleepless nights. If we pull our attention back to only what we need to do in the present, we can accomplish more and reduce our feeling of being overwhelmed. Something I ask clients who have trouble sleeping due to laying in bed thinking about all of the things they need to get done, is this: “What can you truly do about it at 11 p.m.?” I follow up by encouraging them to make a To-Do List during their day, mark off the things they complete, and when they lay down in bed at night, all they have to do is sleep. The rest of the list can wait until the next day.
The next time you notice yourself rushing around, unsure which end is up, try breathing deeply while reminding yourself that you are where you need to be in this moment. Then focus only on what you need to do right now. By practicing these three steps, you’re training yourself to become mindful and in turn can lower your level of impatience.