Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

~ Dalai Lama ~

How To Wait With Less Frustration

February 20th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 3 mins, 9 secs

Hopefully, you won’t sprout this much facial hair next time you have to wait…

When was the last time you had to wait for ages and nearly blew your stack over the sheer frustration of it all? If you’ve ever felt bothered or just plain bored stiff waiting, this is for you.

As the reality that you can’t get what you want right away sets in, the boredom of waiting begins to loom. In this condition, prolonged delays typically result in reduced sensory stimulation, which can create significant anxiety. With insufficient input, distress takes effect. To counter, we get up, shuffle around, look out the window, sift through any magazines, or retreat into texting our friends; anything to boost the level of stimulation.

The greater the wait the bigger the decline in novelty and that leads to increased boredom, discomfort, and often frustration. If we feel our freedom is being denied by the delay, it’s common to experience frustration, anger, fatigue, or despair.

Deprivation like this take its toll, with people feeling increasingly diminished the longer the wait takes. Mind you, that’s hardly surprising, given it’s used by torturers to break prisoners down too.

But there are some things you can do to help you handle the intense and unpleasant effects of prolonged waiting. Regardless of the situation, if you can wrest a sense of control over the situation, even in a small way, the wait will feel easier to bear. So, consider finding a small task or two to manage. It might be keeping others in touch, tidying up, passing on information, or getting to know who else is waiting. Just choose something you can do to boost your sense of control.

Next, relax. That might seem easy enough. But when you are worried or desperate calming yourself takes effort. Yet, gradually calming yourself with gentle thoughts, soft music (if you’ve got some), or focusing onto something moderately distracting will help you to cope throughout that next wait.

As stimulus is often in short supply, the ability to apply your imagination by writing, drawing, or daydreaming is important. If you can tune out to the situation and focus on something interesting (like your next vacation), you not only assumes a little more control, you can also escape the monotony of the wait.

While all of this is happening, keep varying your postures if you can, say every 10 to 20 minutes. Why? Well your body optimally requires movement and a variety of stances to reduce muscle fatigue, give your lymphatic system a boost, and generally help your body to feel well. Wait too long in one position and the effect merely increases fatigue.

Besides which, your body will eventually start screaming, “I need to move” if you stay stuck too long in one spot. So consciously move and enjoy the activity.

Aside from these activities:

  • Look for ways to be sociable
  • Perform tasks that have nothing to do with your wait but need doing anyway
  • Do some mental gymnastics like identifying items in the area that start with the letter “c, s, t”, or whatever and make a game of your wait
  • Hunt down fresh items for entertainment if you’re able
  • Practice body stretches to help you relax
  • Go for a mental rummage. Actively seek out or make up activities with novelty to get you thinking fresh thoughts.

The key to overcoming the monotony of the long wait is to find as many useful things to do that engage you and include completely new experiences. Anyone who has ever had to wait at an airport or hospital for a day or two will know how arduous these periods can be. So why not put on your boy scout hat and be prepared before it happens?

Thankfully, when a long wait stretches ahead smartphones and music players provide plenty of distraction, as do emergency entertainment packs (Ruth used to make up a travel bag when the boys were young, filling it with sweets, tiny toys, and odds and sods to keep them happily occupied). So, if you anticipate a long wait, plan for the eventuality.

Unless you happen to be the type who can take a nap at the drop of a hat, there’s no single solution for having to wait. It’s a fact of life. That’s why; the surprising answer is not in demanding a no wait way but in changing how we handle ourselves during delays. Think about it next time you take a ticket or join a queue. For, whatever waiting does or doesn’t, it always tests our mettle.


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