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The Stress-Relieving Benefits of Patience

By Debbie Mandel

I was chit-chatting with a woman waiting on line at the supermarket. She frowned, “I have a million things to do and this line is taking forever.” The check-out cashier shouted, “Price check, I need a price check!” The woman exploded, “Why do I always pick the wrong line?” I think she wanted to wrestle me to the ground when I blurted out, “The universe is trying to teach you patience.” The woman in back of her chimed in, “Yea, that’s what I need more of – patience. I’m always so impatient with everything in my life. I wish I could be patient right now!” I turned to her and said, “Well, you have to be patient about becoming patient.” She laughed, “You’re right. That’s pretty funny.”

What’s so good about being patient? In stress-management patience can make the difference between an inflammatory response that harms your body and enrages your mind and a relaxation response that stabilizes your glucose levels, blood pressure, digestion, breathing and happiness factor. Patience feels like a deep inhalation of fresh air along with a deep exhalation of staleness. You feel lighter and receptive to changes that unexpectedly come your way, as opposed to rushing around distractedly and upset. Instead of stomping your foot, clenching your fist like a spoiled, demanding child, you glide with an open hand and open heart. Patience means waiting for an expected outcome without the frustration, tension or anxiety.

Impatient people are:
  • Dissatisfied, or angry about their slow progress.
  • Exploding at others and quickly discarding relationships, jobs and classes as they withdraw prematurely unable see them through.
  • Downplaying their own accomplishments, beating themselves up about what they haven’t yet accomplished.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by their big goals, losing the motivation to keep on trying.
When you are impatient with others, you get annoyed because you have to repeat yourself: Why don’t they get it the first time? As a result, others might reject or abandon you because you are too pessimistic and demanding. Perhaps you blame them for your lack of progress which becomes toxic to their own individual growth. Basically, you do not give them support, understanding and respect for their priorities.

When you grow patient with yourself, you lighten that tense burden of accomplishment. You let go of a stressful timetable to enjoy the process of achieving your goal. Whether you are trying to lose weight, get fit, earn a degree, fall in love, buy a house or have a baby, you need time to adapt to the changes, physically and emotionally. If you are pregnant, your body slowly changes as organs shift positions, ligaments loosen and skin expands. After you have the baby, your body requires time to change again. Your emotions are varying right along with your body. When you rest from work and a hectic schedule, you are in touch with your internal energy. Just as your muscles grow during periods of rest, so does your soul!

Time is subjective and therefore under your control. When you are having fun, time flies. When you are suffering, time lasts forever and that’s when you grow impatient with pain or grief. Patient acceptance leads to a powerful transformation and a big reduction in pain. Instead of fighting the pain and sadness, you go through it and emerge wiser and kinder. You can learn patience from observing nature. Look how long it takes a seedling to grow, flower and bear fruit. Why should you be different and unnatural?

How do you cultivate patience on a concrete, real level?
  • Sit quietly for 10 breaths and practice breathing rhythmically and consciously. While you breathe, think with each breath you relax and slow down your heart beat.
  • Clench your fists for 10 seconds and release. Note how you feel.
  • Sip a hot cup of herbal tea, coffee or chocolate. Because your drink is hot, you will have to slow down.
  • Visit the supermarket and if you are waiting on a long, slow line, grab a magazine and get involved in reading while you wait or create a poem in your head.
  • Don’t wear your wrist watch for a day.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: