A couple of weeks ago, my wife, Diane, woke up after me, came down to the kitchen, and wanted to talk to me about something we had previously discussed. I was brusque, didn’t want to talk about it and made a few annoying comments. I was tired of the topic and I wasn’t very nice about it. Needless to say, a storm quickly gathered, with thunder and a few lightning bolts cast in my direction.
I was inpatient. And I was in the wrong. I could have kept my mouth shut and listened without making any comments. Yes, I was a little on the worn-out side, but that’s no excuse. Diane’s reaction was also wide from the mark. There’s never a good reason to raise your voice in anger — it’s not necessary and it’s rarely well received. Anger is fine, but yelling isn’t.
I felt bad about my behavior and apologized in word and deed. Diane apologized for the thunderstorm. We went on with our day.
It’s easy to become impatient with each other, especially when one of us is grumpy, worn thin and on edge. During this long-haul pandemic, with home schooling and work from home, families have had a bit too much togetherness. It’s not a recipe for forbearance.
But it’s important to cultivate patience and kindness with each other, all of which brings about peace, harmony and goodwill — essential ingredients for a happy home.
Here are some thoughts on how to nurture greater patience.
Craft a daily affirmation. Every morning after I meditate, I recite an affirmation that reminds me to focus on patience, love and kindness, especially toward my partner. This affirmation helps me stay on track. It reminds me of my intentions and keeps them front and center. It helps me start the day on the right footing. Construct an affirmation that expresses what you want to nurture in your thoughts, words and actions.
Breathe. Sometimes we forget to breathe! Holding our breath, we find ourselves feeling tense. Remember to take long, slow breaths into your belly. And, when you start to feel grouchy, take some extra breaths before you say anything.
Slow down. While the pandemic has slowed us down, with less driving and running from here to there, increased living and working from home has added its own pressures. Dishes tend to pile up all day long! Pace yourself, make sure to leave time for walks outside and for simply doing nothing.
Take time for yourself. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. Too much time with each other can result in frayed nerves, tension and impatience. Getting away by yourself can help you to recharge and release pressure.
Turn off (devices) and tune in. Put your smartphone away and tune into what’s going on around you, with yourself and others. How are you feeling? What’s your current state? What about others in your household? Being in touch with yourself and your family will help you take better care of yourself and your loved ones.
Pay attention to when you are particularly patient with others and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Notice when there was room for improvement. How could you have handled the situation differently?
And make sure to also cultivate patience with yourself, too. You deserve it.
Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/health-wellness-library.html.