Ways to Destress Your Wait Time

How do you feel about waiting in line, waiting on hold, and other forms of waiting? Is it stressful? Do you get impatient or angry? Does your "inner brat" demand that the wait be over? If so, you're not alone.Several years ago a Pittsburgh research firm estimated that each of us spends over 5 years of our lives waiting. Not all at once, of course, but a few annoying minutes at a time.Waiting can certainly be irritating and exasperating. But it need not be.

The stressful part is not the situation ? it's how you handle it. Don't let your inner brat take control.Here's what to do instead:.1. Pay attention to something else: The more you pay attention to the wait time, the longer it seems.Suppose you're in a checkout line.

The person in front of you is fumbling to find her checkbook. Then she asks the cashier for a pen. Doesn't it seem to take forever as you watch her write her check? The actual wait time is probably no more than two minutes.

But what if, instead, you grab a magazine off a rack and look through it until it's your turn? Often, you wish you had more time to finish reading the article.==> Lesson #1: The less you focus on the wait itself, the more quickly time will seem to pass.2.

Adjust your expectations: The longer you expect to wait, the more patient you are.Suppose you have tickets to a play or concert, and you arrive a half hour early. During that half hour you peruse the program, look around the theater or chat with the person next to you. You feel relaxed.But then show time arrives.

At five minutes past the appointed time you start looking at your watch, squirming in your seat. After 10 minutes you may become annoyed enough to complain about the wait.In other words, you had no problem waiting 30 minutes because you didn't expect anything to happen during that time. But once you expected the show to begin, even five minutes seemed too long.==> Lesson #2: Assume it's going to take twice as long as you'd like. And then distract yourself with something interesting to help pass the time ? read something, listen to music or talk to someone.

3. Reduce uncertainty: If you know how long the wait will be, it's less stressful.Does this sound familiar? "Please hold.

All of our representatives are busy. Your call is very important to us, and will be answered in the order that it is received.".That message is not very reassuring or calming. At best it lets you know that you are in the queue. You still have no idea as to how long the wait will be.

Some companies give you an estimate of the wait time. Not only does this tell you whether the wait is two minutes or 20 minutes; it also gives you a feeling of control. If you choose to wait a long time, you are less apt to be angry about it, than if the decision is out of your hands.

==> Lesson #3: If possible try to find out how long you'll have to wait. This won't help if you're on the phone, of course, but it will come in handy at airports, doctors' offices and restaurants.4. See the value of what you're waiting for: If you really want it, it's worth the wait.

Some people will eagerly wait in line for hours just to catch a glimpse of a celebrity or to take advantage of a special sale, such as on the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S., when stores offer rock-bottom prices on popular items.On the other hand, these same people might grumble about waiting in line for more than ten minutes to buy stamps at the post office.

Why the difference? You can buy stamps elsewhere. You probably won't get another chance to see the Pope drive by.==> Lesson #4: Think about waiting as an investment, rather than as a waste of time. The payoff is the enjoyment or relief that you'll feel once the waiting is over.

Finally, remind yourself that compared to all the problems in the world, the act of waiting is pretty trivial. Waiting is merely a temporary inconvenience, not worth getting your inner brat involved.


Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and coach in Camp Hill, PA, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior" (Wildcat Canyon Press, 2004).Visit for more information, and subscribe to her free, monthly Inner Brat Newsletter.

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By: Pauline Wallin, Ph.D.

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