How To Be More Patient Right Now

Need some patience - now? How to Be More Patient ::

Something I’ve been asked over and over again is “How are you so patient?”

And here’s my secret: I’m really not. I get frustrated all the time. I’ve just taught myself not to react so fast when my patience is being stretched. I’m not so patient. I’m just not so volatile.

But here’s the thing: Actively practicing having conscious reactions to my frustrations has, over time, given me more patience. Having more patience is so valuable when you live with small children! They say patience is a virtue, but I believe it is a skill we all have access to.

If you want to be more patient – or at least seem more patient – here are the five steps I use to manage my responses in moments of impatience and frustration.

Identify your triggers.

Knowing what makes you impatient is the first step. Think about the last time you felt your impatience or anger rising. What had just happened? What events, people, or phrases set you off?

It might help to just notice for a week, without trying to change anything. Make a list of all the things that cause you tension or frustration, or make you react in a way you regret later. Also pay attention to what’s happing with your body when these feelings arise. Are you hungry? Over tired? Too hot to cold? Feeling constricted? What physical factors are contributing to your emotions? Can you identify a pattern?

My triggers are standing in long lines and having people speak to me condescendingly. I also know I’m less patient when I’m anxious, like when I’m running late, and when I’m hungry or tired. Knowing these things tells me when I need to pay attention to how I’m reacting to others.

Pause yourself.

When you feel your impatience rising, take a mental step back. Choose not to act or speak from that wound-up place. When I react in the heat of emotion I’m most likely to say or do something I’ll regret or need to apologize for. So just hit the pause button.

If it helps, pretend someone is watching. Sad but true, we all behave better when we think we have an audience.

Get into your body.

Use that old advice – count to ten. Take a deep breath and let it out through your mouth. Take another one if you need to. Notice where you are holding tension in your body and consciously let it go. You will start to feel your frustration draining away.

Offer empathy.

If it was a person who triggered your frustration, step into their shoes for a moment and see how the interaction looks and feels from their perspective. Maybe your child is throwing toys. Is he working through a strong emotion? Is she overtired or needing a snack? Perhaps someone said something something that felt rude or inappropriate to you. What’s going on in that person’s life today that might make them behave that way?

In my experience, most people strive to do their best. But sometimes their best is hindered by pain or distraction. Or just by their own baggage. But that’s their stuff. And responding in anger doesn’t help anybody feel better.

Choose how you want to respond.

What do you want the outcome of this situation to be? Leo Babuta recommends asking yourself the question, “How does this help?” before you say anything, especially to your children. Yelling or scolding rarely helps anybody.  What would actually help in this moment?

Sometimes the answer to that is “Do nothing,” or “Walk away.” Sometimes the answer is “Give love,” or even “Ask for help.” Even my 3-year-old is surprisingly willing to cooperate if I explain that I need her help to get through the store, to get dinner on the table, or just to deal because I’m having a hard time today.

Using these tools will help you manage when you are in a moment of frustration and need to reach for some patience and calm.

Having tools is great, but it is even better when you don’t need to resort to them. If you find that you are having to pause yourself an awful lot, go back to your list of triggers and see if there are things on there you can be proactive about. Are you prone to impatience when you are hungry? Make sure you have small snacks readily available to keep your blood sugar level. Is being over-tired an issue? Work on setting better boundaries around your sleep time, or build in space for naps and breaks during the day if your sleep is being interrupted by small people in the night. Are you an introvert and not getting enough down time? Practice radical introvert self care.

It doesn’t feel good to yell at our kids or to be frustrated multiple times during the day. Take control of your reaction. You – and the people around you –  will feel so much better as a result!

Where could you have used a little more patience today? What might you do differently next time?

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4 Responses to How To Be More Patient Right Now

  1. miriam April 12, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    pretending someone is watching is something that may really help me with patience with my son. that is one i have not heard. and then after i imagine someone is watching i will ask myself if my reaction is helpful. another one that sounds like it may increase my patience. or slow down my impatience anyway.
    i have recently started to notice my triggers and that has helped tremendously. i was pretty floored realizing that something as small as being stressed about what to make for dinner can change my reactions for the worse.

    • Doña April 14, 2014 at 9:21 am #

      Those triggers can really get you, huh? My family jokes that I turn into a bear when I’m hungry – don’t talk to me, just hand me food! Unfortunately, it is actually true. That’s the one I have to watch out for most. Also, if dinner is stressing you out, try a simple weekly meal plan. It helped me so much! I wrote about it here:

  2. Juniper April 11, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    I especially like your advice to ask yourself “How does this help.” I hadn’t thought if processing my reactions quite that way. Although I think I’m typically patient, my kids really bring out authoritarian tendencies in me. This can push me into a very regrettable place of rage, but I’m working on it! Another thing I’m trying to remember when the kids are playing chopsticks on my buttons – “connection before correction.” Using empathy first is hard when it seems so important to maintain authority, but it really does deflate a conflict and gets the underlying feelings out in the open.

    • Doña April 14, 2014 at 9:16 am #

      I have been really surprised by a tendency to strictness in me lately. And I’m starting to hear it echoed back to me by Stella (“I’m serious, mama!”) so I’m working on kinder and gentler language and more connection, as you say. I derailed two meltdowns last week by offering a hug, which were great teaching moments for me!

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