Waiting is a part of life and a big part of living with illness. We wait for medical appointments, test results, insurance approvals, and sometimes prescriptions. With all that waiting, either I had to develop patience or I was going to be a hot mess. Resisting reality is its own kind of hell, and I think patience feels better.
Graceful waiting is an act of courage and patience. It takes courage to live with unknowing. Here are my tips for developing patience:
Tip #1: Don’t be a victim—be your own hero. Waiting is an active process. While waiting for better treatment, a frustrated patient once told me, “I feel like I am sitting around and doing nothing while the hepatitis C is eating away at my liver.” Don’t sit back and let this happen. Use this time to build your health.
Tip #2: Take care of your entire body. You may have a disease, but that isn’t an excuse to ignore self-care. Take care of your mind and spirit too.
Tip # 3: Get a life. It’s easy to dwell on illness, especially when we are first diagnosed. However, after awhile, thinking can become an obsession that may hurt more than help. Strike a balance between the need to pay attention to your medical problem and the need to be free from thinking about it.
Tip # 4: Imagine health. Visualization, positive self-talk, and imagination are powerful tools. We can use them to our advantage or detriment. If all we can think about is how tired and befuddled we are, it doesn’t leave room for much else.
Tip # 5: Stay connected. Surround yourself with people who are vital and wise. I found it necessary to let go of unhealthy relationships, and chose to be with people who had gumption. Someone wrote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” If I was going to dance in the rain, I wanted to be with other dancers.
Tip # 6: Strive for the healthiest lifestyle you can. This is courage in action. Lao Tzu said, “A man with outward courage dares to die: A man with inward courage dares to live.” Start small. I don’t smoke or use alcohol. I eat well, maintain my weight, am active, and I meditate. This took years to achieve. I gave up alcohol first, then cigarettes. Exercise came next. I am still working on meditation. It’s a process. If I tried to change all of me at once, I would have given up.
Tip # 7: Live in health, not fear. Illness is scary, and it is reasonable to freak out about it. However, fear and worry don’t help, so when you are ready, consider giving up fear. Amy Tan wrote, “If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” Attitude can change everything.
Tip # 8: Surround yourself with positive messages. Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics said, “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Tip # 9: Live in gratitude. There is a Chinese proverb that states, “We count our miseries carefully, and accept our blessings without much thought.” Are you counting your blessings or your troubles?
Tip # 10: Keep your sense of humor. The English poet, Lord Byron wrote, “Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” In addition to scientifically proven health benefits, humor lightens even the heaviest load.
Developing patience is a practice. It takes diligent commitment, training and time. It is a declaration of intent to stay healthy no matter what. It is medicine without taking drugs. When we dare to live well, we honor ourselves and inspire others to do the same.