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Q&A | How do you stay patient?

Reader Karen messaged me on Instagram with this question:

How do you muster up patience and faith that things will work out, such as when your child is hunting for their first job?

This is a question that I’m not going to be able to answer from a completely secular perspective, which is probably going to be ok with Karen since she asked about faith!

But I just figured I should give a heads up to the rest of you. 🙂

Red maple leaves.

Another heads up: I do not do this perfectly. I have spent plenty of hours lying awake at night, anxiously worrying about situations/relationships/the future, etc. However, when I’m worrying, it’s usually because I’m not applying all the stuff in this post.

And when I do apply these things, I’m much more likely to experience patient peace.

Basically, I’m sharing this with you not as an expert, but as someone who is in the trenches next to you. 🙂

So. Here are some practices that help me when I’m feeling impatient or anxious.

1. I look at the past

There have been many, many times in the past when I have been all spooled up about something, anxious about how it will work out, and then that thing has worked out as I hope it would.

Even when the thing has not worked out as I hoped, well, I have still made it through. I have a 100% survival rate so far, and that gives me a reason to think I will likely survive whatever this future thing is too!

Red maple leaves.

2. I remember that there is not one perfect outcome

If you are looking for a job or a house or any number of things, it can help to remember that there’s more than one satisfactory outcome.

There are probably multiple jobs that would be good or multiple houses that would be good or multiple ways to resolve a problem. And realizing that can free up your mind a bit.

If you think there’s only One Satisfactory Outcome, then you will be very stressed about finding it!

But if you keep your mind open to multiple options/outcomes/resolutions, I think you will feel more peace.

Red maple leaves viewed from below.

On a related note, when it comes to things like house-buying (or job-hunting), sometimes you hear a “no.”, but the no makes way for a “yes” that is better in some way or another.

So sometimes, the way things end up is ultimately better than what I hoped for.

3. I try to remember that other average people have done ____ before

Other people’s children have successfully found jobs.

Other people have successfully made it through Anatomy and Physiology (that one’s for me!)

Other people have bought houses.

Other people have paid off debt.

Other people have survived hard pregnancies.

If other normal, average people have done these things, then it stands to reason that what I am facing is probably not impossible.

4. I trust that God knows what He’s doing

Sun shining through red maple leaves.

Because I am a Christian, I believe that God is working things out for me and that even hard things like a long period of waiting, or a “no” when I wanted a “yes”…those things are still working for my good.

That belief helps me to breathe a little sigh of relief and allows me to have more of a spirit of acceptance; I have peace when I rest in the faith that Someone wiser than me is working all of this out.

I like Taylor Leonhardt’s song, Poetry, which touches on these themes:

Isn’t it so hard for most of us to find the kind of patience that will trust

the slow steady work of God beneath the surface,

every moment working for our good

5. I try to stay in the moment

Anxious impatience usually comes from me mentally living in the future.

“Life will be awesome once we pay off this car.”

“I can’t wait until this pregnancy is over!”

“I’ll feel much more relaxed once we find a house.”

Sometimes these thoughts are true (my life DID improve greatly after my pregnancies were over!), but even when true, they’re still not super helpful.

I made myself miserable when I focused on getting to the end of my pregnancies but I did much better if I focused on handling one day at a time.

I had a terrible time being patient as we saved up to pay cash for a new van; I did better when I focused on daily choices that helped us build up that savings account.

6. I try to hold my desired outcome with open hands

If I get dead-set on a particular timeline or a particular outcome, then I will likely experience a lot of pain if things don’t pan out the way I’ve hoped.

I’m much better set up to weather whatever comes my way if I think, “I want this to work out like ____. But there are many ways for this to work out, and if I don’t get what I want, when I want it, I know that I will still be ok, and I can still find ways to be at peace.”

My pastor used to say, “Stay flexible or you’ll break!” and there’s a lot of truth in that. It’s fine to want things and to work toward things, AND it is also helpful to hold things loosely and stay open to what might come down the pike.

7. I try to stay busy with things that I can actually control

Maple leaves.

When I’m impatiently, anxiously worrying, 9/10 times it’s about something I can’t control.

So, I find it helpful to focus on things that I can actually choose.

For instance, if you are anxious about your son’s job hunt, you could:

  • focus on your own job
  • support him in his hunt by encouraging him
  • do something fun with your husband and son
  • look for ways to serve someone else
  • chat (and commiserate!) with some other mom friends
  • distract yourself with a new hobby

8. I remember that there will always be something to worry about

Three red maple leaves.

You know how early on in pregnancy, you think you will relax once you get out of the first trimester?

And then you think you will relax once your baby is born and you can actually confirm they’re ok because you can see them breathing?

And then you think you will relax once your baby can roll over, because then you don’t have to worry they will suffocate in their sleep?

This goes on and on and on.

Life sends an endless supply of worry topics to us (and this seems particularly true for those of us who are parents!)

Based on this fact, it really does not make sense to impatiently wait for a resolution to Current Worry X because a resolution is not going to free us from worry. A new worry is waiting in the wings, right behind Current Worry X.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that it’s helpful to remember that the problem is me, not the situation. So the problem will be resolved, not by a change of situation, but by me reframing my thoughts.

Readers, what advice would you add to mine? What helps you when you are feeling anxious and impatient?

P.S. Karen sent me this question a few weeks ago, and just yesterday she messaged me to say her son did get a job. Yay! But given #8 above, this post can probably still be relevant for Karen (and the rest of us!) in the future. 🙂

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Sunday 2nd of January 2022

This is a great list. I would add to #5 a slightly different way of staying in the moment. This fall I've had a lot of existential worries. Will we find a home? Will we have to move temporarily and then move again? Will I be able to teach if we move temporarily? Etc. Etc. I have a tendency to catastrophize. One thing I did that helped in the middle of the night when I would be chewing away at scary scenarios like a dog with a bone was to say to myself, "Hold on a minute. You have a home tonight. You are okay right this minute. You are under a roof and protected from the weather. You have a studio and can teach tomorrow." It actually did help me to relax when I did that.


Friday 3rd of December 2021

Oh, hi Shawn! (and thank you!) It's been a while since I've heard from you. I thought of you the other day because Zoe just got her learner's permit, so I'm about to teach my fourth kid how to drive. You taught a driving course for teens, right? That's why you came to mind.

Shawn D.

Friday 3rd of December 2021

One of my favorite posts you've ever done!


Thursday 2nd of December 2021

This is one of the best posts I’ve read! At perfectly summarizes everything I am striving towards when it comes to worrying and decision making. (More often than not I’m not succeeding however. But it still helps to read this.)Thank you!


Thursday 2nd of December 2021

This was advice I needed today. Thank you for sharing your strategy and being open about your Christian faith.

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