In last week’s article, I provided a dictionary definition of patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”  But more accurately, I should have just said that patience is the opposite of impatience.” Impatience is the key word, and it is a mixture of emotions such as irritation, frustration, anxiety, and stress that are released when some obstacle comes in the way of accomplishing a goal.  In other words, you want to get from point A to point B as quickly and as easily as possible, and something or somebody gets in your way, which releases this elusive emotion called “impatience.”

The feelings you get when you become impatient vary from a mild annoyance to outright panic, depending on the situation.  Impatience is simply the umbrella term.  You could become impatient when a traffic jam gets in your way of arriving at the airport on time.  You could become impatient when an employee of yours is slow to learn the skills of a job.  You could become impatient when you have been waiting in a client’s office for 15 minutes to see the person who agreed to meet you at that time.  And so on.

Impatience is a mental and physical process that results from situations such as the ones mentioned above.  So, you might suddenly become anxious and stressed, or angry, or swear or yell, or jiggle your foot, or clench your fists, or whatever. Your reaction depends on the situation and your personality, your mood, your energy level, and so on.

A few things are certain.  It is unhealthy.  It is unproductive.  And it is damaging your reputation.  It can also be harmful to relationships – and even life-threatening if it happens on the highway for instance.  Most cases of road rage is the result of impatience.  So are many job losses, fractured relationships, and divorces.

Impatience is a key factor in Type A personality. Rosenman and Friedman found that people exhibiting Type A behavior are over twice as prone to heart attacks, five times more prone to a second attack and have had fatal heart attacks twice as frequently.

The Type A personality is characterized by intensive drive and aggressiveness. The individual is ambitious, competitive, feels a constant pressure to get things done and often races the clock. He or she is a hard worker, speaks, eats, and moves quickly, and schedules more and more in less and less time. The individual has a keen sense of time urgency, is restless, hates to be idle, cannot stand lineups, and is characterized by, hostility and anger. In other words, a Type A person is impatient.

The advice given includes walk, talk, and eat more slowly, play games to lose, write down things that spark anger, smile at others, and laugh at yourself, do one thing at a time, admit to being wrong, and stop interrupting. Slow down and get more done.

Friedman and Rosenman also offered suggestions such as engage in non-competitive hobbies, plan, delegate more, practice effective listening, recognize that you cannot do everything, and aspire to the “things worth being” as opposed to the “things worth having.” Similar things should also quell your patience.

Shrug off the daily hassles or even laugh at them without letting them get you all tense and upset. Put them in their proper perspective.  For instance, what effect is being stuck in a traffic jam and being late for work going to have on your career, your future, and your life? 

A happier, healthier lifestyle is more important than ever, and along with it, an attitude that tends to stress-proof your life. It is important to get enough sleep, daily exercise, and social support. But it is equally important to be aware of the good things that happen to you – those positives amid negative events.

Be more conscious of the things that go right in your life, and remember that when things look bleak, humour helps. Do not take yourself too seriously. Laugher reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, aids immunity, changes mood for the better, and helps you think.

When changing any behavior, it takes time.  And putting a damper on your impatience is no exception.  Start with something small, such as waiting a few minutes before wolfing down that hamburger.  Sit in the car for a minute or two before entering your house after work.  Take a deep breath before replying to some controversial statement.  And so on.  You can practice patience.  If you get into the habit of pausing before reacting to anything, the reasoning part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex, will have time to take control.  Once you are in control of any situation, you will no longer be an impatient person.

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