Bring it to Barb


This week’s question:

Dear Barb,

Is it just me, or is it more and more difficult to endure the traffic, checkout lines, hold times on the phone or expecting good customer service? I am always playing the waiting game! 

Signed, Hurry up and Wait

Dear Hurry up and Wait,

It is so tempting to mentally get worked up over waiting but it literally will deplete all your energy. Situations out of your control in this frenzied, hurry-up lifestyle we now are all facing will drain you by the end of the day. 

Decide to be patient when you are in a solid line of nine in the checkout line. It’s true that you feel you are continuously waiting in today’s society, but be smarter and wait calmly. People who are patient experience less depression and negative emotions, possibly because they can cope better with upsetting or stressful and inconvenient situations. 

Being more mindful and having a sense of gratitude toward others tends to produce more hope and satisfaction in individuals according to recent studies. Patience seems to be a skill you can practice, but requires tolerance. 

Another option to remember is timing. You will be sabotaging yourself purposefully if you hit the grocery store after work at 5:30 with everybody else. Don’t plan a lunch out at the same time as everybody else has lunch because you know that it will be busy. Drive to Seattle at non-peak times if at all possible. Grocery shop early before work at 7 a.m. or at 10 p.m. It’s so quiet at those times! You won’t be disappointed.

If you are the type of person who has great respect for time and don’t tend to putter without a direction or purpose, this can be infuriating. You must decide to be patient. Talk to yourself at the point where you are jingling your keys or taking a big sigh. Train your brain to specifically concentrate on another problem beyond your waiting. Plan your menu for an upcoming party or trip. Get into your head about anything that needs your attentiveness. Don’t look at the time on your phone or Facebook media but relish the fact that you are forced to do nothing but stand and wait — just use it to your advantage to focus on things you would never get a chance to think about at home due to your busy lifestyle. 

Leverage your inconvenience to make it an asset, just as a longer streetlight gives you time to locate a pen or lipstick from your purse. 

The unhappiest people are those with unrealistic expectations that they perceive as realistic. Over and over we expect great service at a restaurant on Mother’s Day, or no traffic on Labor Day weekend, or no annoying, loud children or obnoxious pets at a park on a sunny day. You don’t go to a pool and expect to not get wet! 

Patience is the opposite of immediate gratification. Those without patience who want to see results immediately may not be willing to “pay their dues,” such as an entry-level job, jumping from position to position rather than growing and learning. 

Finally, patience can also protect us against the damaging health effects of stress. People who consciously practice patience are less likely to report headaches, acne flair-ups, ulcers, diarrhea, and pneumonia. People who exhibit impatience and irritability have more sleep issues too. 

We can try to shelter ourselves from frustration and adversity, but they come with the territory of being human.

My advice is to save the precious energy you are unknowingly depleting and mentally manage it to your specific style that keeps you in your happy place. Try smiling at others around you while you wait — they are waiting too!  

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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