Patience – how to feel less frustrated?

patienceYou wait for the mouse but it doesn’t appear. You make a phone call but there is no answer. You’ve hurt your foot and can’t get on with some activity. It seems that having to suffer some delay, difficulty or discomfort is a common event in everyday life. Who doesn’t feel irritated by the frustrations of life? When in the grip of such emotion it is easy to lash out, to put others on the defensive and make the situation worse. How can you avoid feeling frustrated? Here are some tips for transforming aggravation into patience.

Remembering the benefits of patience

Gardening teaches the benefits of patience. You plant something and it can take a year to flower or longer for a tiny seed to grow into a tree.

If you are prepared to calmly wait instead of trying to grab what you want, you will be investing quality time in something without giving up or giving in. Having patience avoids  the stress of getting all steamed up over things you cannot change. When you can stay calm, centred and not acting rashly out of frustration, all areas of your emotional life are likely to improve.

Patience from reflection

Reflecting on the possible causes of delays and frustrations can help you to understand why things are likely to take longer than you had expected. In this way you can avoid jumping to unwarranted conclusions and challenge your fanciful imagination. This means you are making a conscious choice to become clearly aware of your hasty guess e.g. that someone intended to cause you grief. Then you can assess the likelihood of it really being true. Such reflection can help induce a state of patience.

Patience from looking

When you are obliged to wait for what you want, why not look for something in the present moment experience that might arouse your interest. Like empathising with an overwrought shop assistant. Seeing things from someone else’s perspective can only reduce one’s own sense of grievance. Perhaps you can find something pleasing that you hadn’t noticed at first. Looking for the good in a situation instead of being preoccupied with the bad. This is an example of an attitude of mindfulness i.e. living in the moment and being awake to experience.

Patience from not justifying impatience

It can feel unfair if you are told to have patience and to accept a delay. After all it wasn’t your fault that you have been blocked. It seems unreasonable that you shouldn’t push to get what you need. This impatient attitude is seeing patience as equivalent to passive resignation. Seeing patience as apathetically giving into difficulty that instead should be seen as a challenge. You want to override whatever is stopping you moving forward. So you might agree with Ambrose Bierce who once said that ‘patience is a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue’. Or with Kin Hubbard who said that ‘lack of pep is often mistaken for patience’.

But aren’t many hindrances just beyond our ability to control? You cannot alter some things in life – such as bad weather or a general economic recession. Okay, it may be true that there is something one can alter to make some progress. But jumping the queue or trying to rush things may be bad for someone else and possibly counterproductive for you. Is this really what you want? One of my favourite sayings is ‘You can only do what you can do.’ I would suggest patience doesn’t make anyone a doormat. In order to follow one’s principles, one cannot immediately expect to get one’s own way all the time.

All this amounts to examining your ways of thinking. This often will show how it is the mind that is the cause of discomfort, not the outer circumstances. What is crucial is the choice one makes when faced with any particular situation. You either wait on the phone listening to music or you phone back at a less busy time. In other words a feeling of impatience is a habitual response to an external trigger – a response that could be different.

Patience from honesty

Try answering these questions. ‘What are you impatient for?’ and ‘Why the hurry?’ Is it to do with pursuing something really worthwhile or is it something that can wait. Are you really desperate for that bit of information to satisfy what may turn out to be idle curiosity, or that food snack to remove pangs of hunger, or that way out of a social obligation so that you can get on with what we want to do.

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” (Franklin P. Jones)

Aren’t we all prone to wanting immediate gratification? Learn to recognise the impulse ‘I want it now, and later simply will not do.’ And then consider an alternative way of thinking.

Patience from a considering religious perspectives

Sacred writing encourages patience in the context of inner conflict and temptation. For example in the Bible, the book of Revelation offers hope to those with patience suffering persecution for the sake of what they believe to be good and true. How tempting it must be to give up one’s principles because of the ridicule and contempt of others for what one holds dear.

One such principle is that of trust in a divine power who provides for one’s eternal needs even if temporal ones are frustrated.

According to this view, patience comes from a deep attitude of contentment with life as it is. I would suggest that this inner patience comes easily to people when they allow themselves to be led by the lessons of life rather than indignantly dwelling on the unsatisfied desires of ego. When you don’t get what you want, are you willing to patiently acquiesce to the providential flow of life?

“We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” (Helen Keller)

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands (http://spiritualquestions.org.uk/2012/10/heart-head-hands-ebook/)

Stress – How to find lasting relief?

stressDo you hear yourself saying I don’t have the time – to do all my job requires, spend quality time with the children, to relax with my partner, fix the car, weed the flower bed and mow the lawn, etc.

Feeling under pressure most of the time is not good for your health. If you are feeling hassled by life, with people, who you would normally expect to cope with, getting on your nerves, the strains on you will be beginning to show; nervous tension, sleeping poorly, or getting more than an ordinary amount of headache, upset stomach, back pain, and short illnesses.

As everyone knows reducing stress in your life can make you a happier and healthier person. But what to do about it to get lasting relief?

There are plenty of remedies for stress around.

The trouble is many of the usual ways of coping with stress are just illusory solutions, such as being distracted by an exotic holiday location, or relying on alcohol or medication to calm you down: these can only provide temporary relief.

Some remedies like regular physical exercise and healthy eating are more helpful in the longer run: also taking regular rest breaks, reducing the number of activities in an over-busy schedule and learning better how to relax.

However, there is likely to be resistance to these things built into your way of thinking. You resort to comfort eating, feel too weary to go for that brisk walk, feel you can’t spare time from work. Perhaps you just feel too tense to attempt to relax properly.

Work-related stress

One way continuing stress shows up is depressed mood. A study published by the American Medical Association, estimated that ‘depression’ costs American employers $44 billion in lost productivity every year.

A survey reported by CFO magazine for corporate financial executives summarised the reasons why high achieving employees quit their jobs. Out of the five potential causes cited by HR professionals that top-performing employees would leave, not one of the reasons included stress. However, when asked privately the employees reported work-related stress as the number one factor for leaving a company. What makes this misunderstanding even more startling is that those same HR professionals acknowledged that workers have been working longer hours than normal for the past three years – and will most likely continue the overworked pace for the next three years. We might speculate that this is due to the recession although these days long hours seem to be built into the industrial climate in America and some other capitalist countries. We might ask about the emotional state of those employees still in their jobs working in such a culture? Such a pace of work doesn’t seem sustainable. Why don’t they leave too for less demanding work? Why can’t some people just say ‘no’ to unreasonable demands made on them?

The cause of stress is partly within ourselves

People seem to vary as to how much stress they can deal with before reaching their own breaking point. The cause of stress is something outside of oneself but don’t some of us also add to the load that life weighs down on us by having unrealistic hopes and fears? Excessive demands are a bad thing, but often they come from yourself. Being on the go all the time and you may become exhausted. Expect to get promoted and you may feel more held back and agitated if you are not. Look forward with certainty to having a child and you may feel more disappointment if you do not get pregnant.

I would suggest what is required is an expansion of our focus to include not only the problem but also what is most meaningful and valuable in our lives. And I believe this is how spiritual teachings can help: they oblige us to reflect on how our feelings are affected by our beliefs about how things should be.

The stress of being alone

In his book Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea, Steven Callahan describes how when he was sailing across the Atlantic alone, his boat struck something and sank. He was set adrift on a rubber life raft struggling to survive.

“Deprivation seems a strange sort of gift. I find food in a couple hours of fishing each day, and I seek shelter in a rubber tent. How unnecessarily complicated my past life seems. For the first time, I clearly see a vast difference between human needs and human wants. Before this voyage, I always had what I needed — food, shelter, clothing, and companionship — yet I was often dissatisfied when I didn’t get everything I wanted, when people didn’t meet my expectations, when a goal was thwarted, or when I couldn’t acquire some material goody. My plight has given me a strange kind of wealth, the most important kind. I value each moment that is not spent in pain, desperation, hunger, thirst, or loneliness.”

A Buddhist perspective on stress

From a Buddhist perspective the problem of stress is to do with an attachment to something. If you are feeling impatient and frustrated and want something in a hurry, what idea are you clinging on to? It is likely to include the word ‘must’. “I must have more money”, or “more success”, or “immediate gratification”, or “more appreciation”. “I must be right.” “Must get my own way.”

Confusing what one must have with what one needs.

A Swedenborgian perspective on stress

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, peace and contentment (the opposites of stress and tension) are spiritual qualities: and you will be disappointed in so far as you prioritise the things of the world rather than the things of the spirit. In other words, if you have a mainly self-centred way of looking at things and place materialistic goals at the centre of your life – looking first towards excessive consumption, social status and bodily pleasure – then anxiety is inevitable.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems