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Mindful Living

How to be more patient in the face of anxiety or boredom

J Malacoff Headshot
Julia Malacoff January, 24, 2020

Writer, trainer, nail art aficionado

You might think anxiety and boredom are totally unrelated feelings, but they share more than a few connections! Learning how to be more patient can help you deal with both emotions — and possibly even boost your productivity.

Due to the fact that anxiety stems from fear, it's common to feel stressed, hyperaware and defensive when you're feeling anxious. You might even experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, nausea and headaches. Boredom, on the other hand, is less about fear and more about having an unoccupied mind. It often makes you look for something to do.

Interestingly, though, psychology experts say boredom and anxiety can actually happen at the same time, even though they seem like they'd be at odds. Consider how you react when you're feeling anxious or bored — what's the first thing you do?

Chances are, you'd reach for your phone in both situations. That's because distraction soothes anxious thoughts as well as boredom. But if we always distract ourselves from our feelings, we'll never get to the bottom of our emotions! Here's how to avoid that.

Explore the feeling instead of distracting yourself

Both boredom and anxiety tell us something important about what's going on in our heads and our lives. Conveniently, you can use the same strategy to deal with both emotions: Patience.

The key is to go with whatever you're feeling. As soon as you notice you're feeling anxious or bored, sit with the emotion. See what it tells you. What does it feel like?

Vietnamese business lady pondering over ideas for new business projectIt might be uncomfortable at first, but that's the point. It probably means not grabbing your phone the minute you realize you have nothing to do, or not checking your calendar (again) to make sure there's not somewhere you're supposed to be. By getting more at ease with feeling anxious or bored, you'll feel less resistance to them in the future — which means you can resolve the issue all that much more quickly.

Reading into boredom

Boredom is your brain's way of telling you that whatever you're doing doesn't fulfill you. Where and when you experience boredom can reveal a lot, including the steps you need to take to clear up what you're feeling.

If you're bored at work: This is a red flag that you might not be living up to your career potential. Recognizing that you're bored is the first step. Afterward, consider raising your hand for a new project, taking on additional responsibilities or maybe even interviewing for a more challenging role.

If you're bored at home: It can be tough to switch gears from working to relaxing, so reassure yourself that when you're home, it's totally OK to have nothing to do. If that doesn't help, it may be time to get out for a creative date night with your partner or take up a new hobby!

It's understandable to experience boredom when you don't have control over how quickly things are moving. If you find yourself feeling bored while waiting for something or someone, try viewing it as an opportunity to practice patience and give up just a little bit of control over your time.

Understanding anxious feelings

Anxious feelings are a product of your brain's fight-or-flight response kicking into gear. But oftentimes, we can't control the things that provoke anxiety. That's why learning how to be more patient and sit with your anxious feelings can actually help relieve them.

If you're anxious at work: This usually stems from an overwhelming to-do list or a feeling of job insecurity. Ask yourself where your discomfort might be coming from. If it's not an easy fix, try to accept the situation instead. By consciously acknowledging there are things you're not able to change, you give yourself permission to let go of a huge mental load. It's a way of getting out of your head and back in the game.

If you're anxious at home: Sitting back and relaxing can sometimes feel odd if your brain is used to going a million miles a minute. Next time you feel this way, try spending 10 minutes doing absolutely nothing. Seriously! Set a timer. Look out the window, focus on your breathing or just close your eyes and zone out. It's absolutely OK to take time for yourself.

If you're feeling anxious all the time, it may be a good idea to check in with a mental health care practitioner. Though you can often tackle mild anxious thoughts on your own, if you're experiencing severe anxiety, it's best to seek professional help.

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