How to be patient in the midst of this pandemic
These days we are all asked to stay at home in order to stop the spread of Covid-19 that has cost the life to more than 70000 people around the world.
Staying home seems to be a challenge for most people as there is not a specific end date to it and it is now a measure that everybody is legally obliged to follow. This new reality has created a range of different emotions such as anxiety, sadness, anger and frustration.
In our fast paced societies somebody pressed on the brake pedal abruptly and everybody involved in this incident/accident is suffering from the repercussions…if it is not the illness itself they are battling with. It is the first time in the recent history that the whole world is immobilised but our social consciousness is mobilised.
Now more than ever, at a global level, we are asked to practise and develop our patience. Certain societies might have had more experience in such practice. However, most societies operate based on attaining quick results that are never sufficient for their people to feel contained. There is always more that can be done. This is a never-ending race. People at an individual level reflect this racing culture and rather than following their own process of achieving, owning and developing they follow instead the lead of those that have pressed harder on the accelerator. As one can imagine there might be all sorts of crashes along the way. Thankfully, we usually survive these crashes at a bodily level. Psychologically though, constant acceleration, alertness and unrelenting standards and expectations lead to burn out, breakdowns, anxiety and depression.
Patience is a process that requires for us to slow down and to give up manic control in order to develop internal control and resilience. Most of us have heard of the marshmallow experiment during which children were given a marshmallow and were asked to wait for few minutes before eating it. Those children who were patient would be given a second marshmallow as a reward. The children that could not resist the temptation and ate the marshmallow without waiting would be given no reward. This was a longitudinal design research project, which means that the researchers re-contacted the children few years later. It came as no surprise that those children that did not pursue instant gratification at the time achieved better academic results throughout school. So being patient actually pays off!
This pandemic has invited us all to reflect upon what matters to us most. Instant gratification of certain needs such as to touch someone we love, to play, to work, to travel, to move freely and so on might not be possible spontaneously and imminently. This temporary loss offers us the opportunity to reflect upon how we want to approach these fundamental areas in our life in a mindful, meaningful and sustained way in the future. Rather than quickly dipping in and out of what gives us pleasure, we may want to exercise patience in an attempt to enhance and enrich our lives by developing a deeper connection to what really matters to us. Such enhanced awareness of our fundamental values, life goals or the potential long-term gains that outweigh any gains in the short run can help us endure the current strict measures.
Being patient and being mindful are inter-linked, they both require a self that observes any urges or impulses to act something out. Such an observation can help us resist behaving in a way that is ineffective for ourselves and others. The biggest reward of patience and mindful awareness might be the journey with all its gifts rather than the destination itself. Equally, the destination might be more fulfilling and meaningful following a mindful not rushed journey. We can all come out of this crisis wiser, if we chose to connect to ourselves and to the existential questions that might rise when all our transient and transitional references are collapsing.
So, yes we want this pandemic to end now or at least as soon as possible. This is totally understandable. Although we can take some steps towards decreasing the numbers of people infected, we can’t eliminate the virus on our own. We need to be accepting of our individual limitations and to be patient for the scientific community to resolve this lethal for some people problem. Acceptance is a concept of vital importance when it comes to patience. I accept that on this occasion I chose to be patient rather than reactive to the measures imposed because I know from the depth of my heart that life, love and connection matter to me and in this instance are worth waiting for. Therefore, when I feel down, anxious, resistant or depressed I reconnect with what matters to me and how I can patiently protect it and eventually get closer to it by being patient in this moment.
So here are the bullet points that some people might be waiting for impatiently. If you didn’t read the paragraphs above and you scrolled down to the key points you may need to work a bit harder on developing your patience:
- I take an opportunity during this time of stillness to reflect upon and viscerally feel what it is that I miss in this moment and what I long for. This tends to be in line with my personal values that guide my life as an internal compass.
- I accept that I can’t resolve this problem on my own and I choose to follow the recommended guidelines and measures in order to protect what really matters to me.
- I reject instant gratification because I know that if I patiently wait, there will be greater rewards subsequently.
- I manage any impulses or urges to be reactive rather than patient by developing that wise part of myself that reminds me that emotions, urges and impulses can pass like waves, we don’t need to give in to them. Everything passes eventually. This is a great way of developing your patience. Mindfulness exercises regarding thoughts and feelings can offer practical tools for making space for emotions and letting go.
- I remind myself of other times when exercising patience was useful to me and to someone I know. What did I learn or gain by being patient? What kept me going?
- I consciously choose to develop my ability to be patient because at some other point in my life there will be other challenging situations for which my patience will increase my resilience. Patience can be seen as a wonderful life skill!
- I choose to be in my refuge in the midst of this storm because I know this storm will pass, and eventually I will be able to go out. There is no need to catastrophise, because this like other crises in the past will pass.
- Finally I choose to be patient because this will pay off…remember the marshmallow experiment!