Sometimes, I feel like life is flying by: My baby nephew is now a full-fledged school kid. I’m staring down another birthday when it seems like I just blew out the candles yesterday. The 2021 Phillies’ season is already underway!
Then, I get in line at the grocery store and time…comes…to…a…stop. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure the clock starts moving backwards the minute I have to slow down and wait. Why is it that the good times in life seem to pass by so quickly, while the more painful moments drag on forever?
Why is Waiting so Difficult?
It turns out, mindset has a lot to do with it. If you’re anxious, annoyed, and constantly checking your watch (or phone), your mind perceives time as passing more slowly. Basically, the more you hate waiting, the longer the wait feels. Think about it: Waiting at the dentist’s office when they’re running behind is terrible. Waiting in line for a ten-story roller-coaster? Kind of fun.
Another key factor? Knowledge. Not knowing how long your wait will last or why you’re waiting in the first place is frustrating. If you find yourself cooling your heels at the doctor’s office, ask (politely) for an idea of how long you may be waiting. If the wait for an elevator is taking forever, look into whether there’s a reason for the delay. It won’t make the wait any quicker, but you’ll likely feel better having an idea of what’s going on.
Beating the Waiting Game
These days, we’re all playing the waiting game. Grandparents are waiting to see grandkids they’ve missed the past year. Families are waiting until they can safely gather and celebrate together. Kids are waiting for summer vacation (after all, kids are still kids!). Everyone is waiting for their turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
These tips may help make your wait a little bit easier:
1) Remember why you’re waiting! One key reason you feel impatient is that something you want to accomplish is taking longer than expected. But, just because something isn’t happening as quickly as you’d hoped, doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. Remind yourself that, while it may feel like you’ve been waiting forever, anything important — like renewing your driver’s license or seeing your doctor — is worth it.
2) Make your wait time count. One of the worst parts of a long wait is the feeling that there’s so much else that needs doing. If you find yourself watching the clock, get a head start on meal planning, work on your shopping list, or write a quick note to a far-away friend or relative. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, take five minutes or so to become a better person.
3) Take a deep breath…or several. If you’re having a hard time with a long wait, turn your attention inward. Acknowledge your impatience, and calm your mind and body by focusing on your breathing. It may not make your wait any shorter, but it will certainly pass more pleasantly.
4) Let yourself goof off. How often in our busy lives do we have time to do nothing? Or, better yet, to do something pointless or silly? Next time you find yourself stuck with a long wait, channel your inner child have a little fun! Try coloring to pass the time, watch dumb videos on your phone, or do some virtual globetrotting.
5) Give yourself a break! Sometimes, there’s no avoiding a long wait — shore traffic comes to mind. But other times you may have options. If you can’t stand the idea of standing in line at the grocery store, consider ordering ahead and arranging curbside pick-up. If waiting on hold drives you crazy, opt for the call-back option whenever you can. If the waiting room at the doctor’s office is your personal purgatory, look into telemedicine, which allows you to see a doctor from the comfort of your own home.
Luckily, there are any number of alternatives for the impatient among us! And when it can’t be avoided, one of the best ways to make things easier on yourself is to relax! Once you calm down and let go of the angst, you can figure out what’s behind your impatience and how best to work through it.