In my personal mindfulness practice, I often find the sensation of impatience arising in my mind and body. This was certainly truly before COVID-19, and it is perhaps more true now than ever. What with so much of our “to-do’s” being forcibly taken away – having to work from home if we are fortunate (and with kids that we have to figure out how to home school now, no less) – and the general pace of life slowing down as we all do our very best to practice social distancing (PLEASE!!!), I am certain that for many of us, feelings of “when will this all be over?!” might be coming on really strong right now!
These feelings might be intensely unpleasant. You might feel tightness or tension developing in different places in your body just thinking of how long this whole situation might last for. Indeed – I think that part of what brings up anxiety combined with incredible impatience is the total unknown regarding the global impact of what we are all now facing.
You might also be under a great deal of stress right now as you navigate all of the immense changes that have been asked of us as a society – and the loss of so much of what made life convenient, comfortable, or just plain workable to some degree.
I feel you 100 percent!! There is absolutely nothing easy about what we are going through. This is going to require a lot of strength, ingenuity, resilience, and compassion to make it through to the other side.
Whereas this may or may not be reassuring to you – feelings of impatience can be a phenomenal opportunity to practice mindfulness in a way that truly supports resilience and adaptability.
Let me start out with a few quick tips for coping with impatience in this here and now…
1.) When impatient thoughts arise in the mind, ask yourself, “what are the accompanying feelings/sensations in my body?” Trying stopping where you are and taking a few deep breaths. Using the mind to scan the body (as in, imagine that you are literally traveling though every part of your body one section at a time), try to compassionately notice places of tension and tightness.
See if you can, while breathing slowly, allow these places to relax a little bit. As you relax the body, does the intensity of your thoughts or feelings of impatience shift or change?
2.) What is the underlying tone of your thoughts when you are feeling impatient? Is worry, anger, confusion, sadness, or pain also in the background? Whatever you are experiencing, please know that this is a perfectly intelligent response to the times we are living in. You are NOT weak, you are beautifully human.
Whatever your answer, ask yourself, “what is in my control in this moment?” Do you every best in the moment to identify what is totally out of your control…and then once you have identified what IS in your control, acknowledge whatever emotions are coming up. Then ask yourself, “In what way can I respond to my situation, or can I ask for support in responding to what is causing me to feel impatient, that would feel empowering or compassionate right now?”
3.) Remember – impatience itself is not a problem. It is not a weakness. It is not a sign that you are losing it. It is a perfectly normal, intelligent response to the way as humans, we sometimes feel out of control, disoriented, or even just plain bored.
Try watching the feeling of being impatient with an attitude of curiosity, almost like you are watching your thoughts intently like a TV show…and do your best to watch what happens. Remember, you are NOT your thoughts – your thoughts and even your emotions are just like clouds – weather passing by in the sky. If you can practice being the observer of your impatience thoughts, and whatever emotions might accompany them, you may be surprised at the kind of creativity that can arise in these moments!!!
Before my mindfulness practice, the feeling of impatience would arise and it would feel unbearable. It was like something deep inside of me was calling for me to just DO SOMETHING already with the moment at hand. I felt like I had to take action immediately to relieve the haunting feeling of boredom or just plain painful antsiness that was welling up inside of my chest, causing my legs to shake and my temples to throb.
These feelings can really become exacerbated during times when what is happening around us makes us go into a “scarcity mindset.” The scarcity mindset tells us that there is not going to be enough resources around to help sustain us in living our lives. And that is most certainly endemic to the narrative that is being produced in the media right now…we hear all day every day about what goods and services are running out – who is hoarding what – and who is needlessly suffering because of a lack of what is needed like food and protective gear, and all of that information can make us start to feel helpless…and particularly impatient for this to just be over with!
I am here to tell you right now that being impatient is perfectly understandable. I think we all want this to be over far sooner than later. However, we also have to be able to build the capacity to cope with exactly “what is” right now without running away from it in denial.
This is no easy feat, especially when so much of what we care about seems to be at stake. Building the resilience needed to cope with “what is” can give us the clarity and insight we need to move forward responsibly and with the diligence needed to assess where the greatest needs are, and what resources we might not have previously considered that we have that can help us heal and move forward bit by bit.
For instance, if you are a person who has not been affected by COVID-19 financially, perhaps you have a little more bandwith than others right now to see where you might be able to allocate resources in time, money, or talent to help ease some suffering. If you are a person who has a hobby or a skill that can help out in some way – like sewing clothing, cooking, building things, or maybe you work in the wellness industry and you know a lot about different healing modalities – we can get clever about considering how to teach others our skills online, in ways that might help to alleviate suffering and keep each other feeling connected and/or useful during this time.
Getting creative about how to offer your talents to the world virtually is an amazing way to promote community connections and to counter feelings of impatience when they arise. In other words, its all about making yourself as useful as possible to society right now!!
If you are a person who doesn’t have a lot of time on your hands to consider how you might be able to teach certain skills to others because you are in survival mode, then you are in a different boat altogether. In this case, during your moments of impatience, consider again the tip I wrote about above – taking the time to consider what emotions are arising in your body in the background of your impatience, and what needs those emotions are pointing to. It may even be helpful to write a list or journal about it, so you can get your thoughts in order.
Once you have what is making you feel the most impatient down on paper, I invite you to actively consider ways that you can reach out to community and make those needs known. For those of us with the gift of time and talent or other resources on our hands, we might be uniquely positioned to lend a helping hand right now. Sometimes, being proactive is truly the best counter to feelings of impatience, because you know you are taking an empowered step towards creating solutions that will help you thrive in the long run.
No matter what you decide to do, before you “do” anything, remember to check in with your body and your breath when you are feeling impatient. Remember to ask yourself compassionately – where are the places where I am holding my tension? Is your belly feeling extra tight? Are your shoulders hunched over, or tightened towards your neck? Are the muscles of your face squeezing or holding stress patterns?
However your impatience might present itself to you, your body is ultimately telling you a powerful story about what you need to feel whole. Please gently remind yourself to do your best to slow down in the moment…take a few deep breaths, and invite those places of the body to relax as much as they are able. It is truly in the spaciousness of our connection to own breath that we have the power to create inside of ourselves the healing that our entire society is waiting for!
And then, once you know what you need, or have to offer, reach out to the world and tell us what you’ve got to share – as a potent act of love and empowerment that is a gift to the world!!