Through an unknown mix of nature and nurture some of us are more patient than others in stressful or frustrating situations. The reality is all of us will these situations come up to test us. How you handle it makes all the difference.
Life is often a challenge. People will cause frustration and make mistakes. Things will break or get in the way of what you want at that moment. Your pulse will quicken, your face will turn red, your muscles will become tight and you may want to lash out at the person or thing that dares to stand in your way. At its worst, certain situations could impact you for hours or days and you won’t feel good at all.
Trying to react to difficult situations with calmness and patience is a huge benefit to your wellbeing and your ability to deal with the problem and avoids the negative after effects of staying angry for a long time.
Here are some methods I employ to deal with frustration:
- Perspective — We are lucky to be living in this place and time. Most of our frustrations and challenges are laughably trivial when compared to others in history and in other places today. Eventually we will all have a real challenge like sickness, the death of a loved one, or our eventual deaths. When these moments come we will gladly take all our daily, minor frustrations back when faced with these existential problems. There are likely millions if not billions of people in the world who would trade places with you too, problems and all.
- Understanding — Recognize the situation for what it is. Is the customer service rep responsible for the poor service of the phone company? (No) Do they make a lot of money? (No) Do they spend their days getting yelled at by angry customers? (Yes) With these facts above what sense does it make to scream at them and get worked up? On these calls I always start by repeating the reps name and then asking how they are doing. I then proceed to tell them of my issue and any challenges I have had along the way like I have been transferred ten times already. I always remind them that any frustration I do show is not directed at them personally but at the situation.
- Bake it in — Assume that every day will have a certain number of annoyances. Things will get misplaced, people will drive poorly, someone will bump into you. If you realize that this is part of the game of life and bound to happen then roll with it. The stoic Roman emperor said it best “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.” He baked it in.
- Mindfulness — This is an area that is relatively new to me. It is the practice of being in the present and recognizing your state of mind as an observer. Just observe you are angry and the resultant physical manifestations. All our states of mind are temporary. We move into and out of them unconsciously. My joy over getting a new personal record pole vaulting would be quickly forgotten as soon as I began thinking about the next bar I had to clear. Once the meet was over that joy did not return in the same way but was replaced by a contentedness of having bettered myself. When I find myself angry I try to observe the physical attributes of my anger. By recognizing the quick pulse and the heat in my face my anger suddenly becomes just a quick pulse and hot face. Taking deep breaths can help too. As soon as my mind ceases to think about the cause of my anger, in the snap of a finger, my anger is gone. The negative thought unravels.
- Attribution — Finally, don’t assume there is some grand conspiracy behind all your daily frustrations. You will have bad days. Don’t mistake incompetence for malfeasance. Assume the mean or senseless thing your friend or spouse says was not to hurt you. If you default to goodwill your first instincts will not be to anger. And, please, don’t ever get mad at inanimate objects. They cannot react to your yelling and their offense is likely a result of you or someone else.
These are just some ways I try to exercise patience. I am not perfect but I believe it is within our power to influence the states of mind that we occupy. I choose to occupy a positive, content, and grateful state of mind as much as I can. I believe it has made the moments I have passed on this Earth better for me and those I interact with.
I hope you can do the same.