Mindful Mondays: 5 Tips to Practicing Patience with Chronic Pain
It is Sunday morning. I am sitting on the couch with my giant mug of coffee & I am starting my favorite part of the week.. writing the post for Mindful Monday. But…. I have to be honest. I am not feeling very mindful today.Here is the scoop, I am on the phone, on hold. On hold for hours over the last two days with a company trying to get a refund for a product I was not happy about.
The elevator music has been echoing through my house for what seems like decades. Each second that goes by I feel my tolerance dropping and my agitation growing. I notice what is happening in my body and I do the exact opposite of what I should do. I react to the agitation with MORE agitation and focus on what seems to be the “stupidity of this company”.
Before I know it I am watching my most agitated and frustrated self develop a narrative about the experience. I also magically become a fortune teller in this moment.
“This is going to take ALL DAY!”
“Great now this Sunday is RUINED! I was hoping to walk the dogs, get the house cleaned and get straightened out!”
“My entire weekend is RUINED by this idiotic company!”
“Why me? I have the worst luck!”
And yet here I am in the moment. On hold. Believing all of those narratives that I am telling myself. I lack something in these situations. I lack patience. I always have. I have never been a patient person and after getting sick and constantly fueled by pain, I am even less patient. If that is even possible.
Our society and push button world feeds into our inability to have patience. We have everything at our fingertips. So when we are asked to wait, we sometimes act like a small child and have a mini temper tantrum about the wait and it has the power to affect the rest of our day. Add pain into the mix and it is a recipe for disaster!
patience: (pāSHəns) : the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. (source)
Going back to the definition and the origin of the word, this rings even more true with me as this is something that I struggle with daily…. The origin comes from Latin word patientia, which stems from patient- ‘suffering,’ from the verb pati.
Wow. Suffering. That is exactly what is happening right now as this elevator music plays on repeat. I am suffering. But why? As a person who deals with Chronic Pain, I try to limit my suffering. (There is only so much a person can take right?) So why am I allowing this situation to drive me to an angry, suffering state? Suddenly my reaction to this situation does not make sense.
Sure I am on hold. Sure I want my money back. Sure I have a reason to be peeved but beyond those facts, I am making up the rest of the story and then I am reacting to that story.
All of this ties into our physiological response that ingnites from our emotional response. The last few Mindful Mondays have looked at Pain, Stress and Anger that are also related to emotion –>physical response. So it would make sense that getting behind Grandpa Jones on your way to work when you are already late, will make you feel edge, restless and possibly feed into road rage. All while managing the background pain in your life.
Here are 5 Basic Ways to Be More Patient
- Pause. Notice the impatience. (remember no judgement) Focus on your breath before reacting to the situation. This will give you the opportunity to choose how you will react into of falling into a knee jerk reaction.
- Drop the Shoulds. I did a 2 part series (you can read part I here and part II here) on the Dangers of Should-ing All Over Ourselves.
- We expect others to meet our expectations. The person in front of you at the pharmacy should be prepared to get their order and move on. They should not ask a million questions. They should have their payment ready and not count out their coins on the counter.
- Same goes for my situation with being on hold. My beliefs were that I shouldn’t have to wait this long. They should have an easier process. I should be able to do this online. When I hold onto these beliefs I become more and more impatient thus suffering more.
- Know your triggers to being impatient. Is there a time of the day when you have less patience? Is there a physical place that just irks you? If you know that the grocery store is a place that you feel the most impatient, then go at a time where there are few customers and avoid going at peak times (aka: after church).
- Explore what is behind the impatience. Listen to your body and attend to what the underlying factor is
- Overly stressed? Take a few minutes in the day to relax, breathe and cater to you
- Pain is often times a big contributor of impatience for those of us who live in chronic pain. When feeling pain don’t push it. Call it a day or ask someone to help you. Chances are you will end up in more pain if you allow impatience to get the best of you
- Anxiety? Try some deep breathing and grounding yourself (noticing 5 things around you)
- Slow down. Why are we racing against time? Do you have the room to slow down?
- Leaving the house a few minutes early, suddenly Grandpa Jones slow driving doesn’t annoy me as much.
- Having space in my day for error allows to work through problems without the pressure of jumping to the next thing.
Applying these steps in my own life:
For me my biggest trigger is going to the pharmacy. There is never enough help. There is always a line. I am typically there after work when I am in the most physical pain. I have to wait for at least 15 minutes. I find myself becoming agitated, my pain increases and I even sometimes feel my heart race and my face become flush when I am responding to waiting in line for my meds. This went on for a year and half. I hated how impatient I was and how angry I would get at the elderly people who were counting pennies at the counter to pay for meds.
And then there was the guilt. I felt horrible for getting mad and impatient. Those elderly people didn’t have the money or insurance to pay for their prescriptions. They could barely stand in line themselves. It was a never ending cycle of impatience, frustration, anger and guilt.
So here is what I did,. I started going to the pharmacy on Sunday evenings at 5pm. There was hardly ever a line and the time I had to spend standing was minimum. Or if I had to wait, I would kindly let the person know behind me that I needed to sit on the chair in the waiting room, but could they hold my spot in the line? (I have never had anyone say no). I also had nothing pending that needed to be done like making dinner or getting to an appointment.
I could relax. I could even talk to those around me and enjoy the conversation. Just changing this simple routine has helped me in so many ways.I no longer stressed about how long I would have to stand. I no longer have an entire bad day because I had to go to the pharmacy. All is well in the world 🙂
Where are you those most impatient and how can mindfulness help you in practicing patience?