'Tis the season to be patient

The holiday season is a test of everyone's patience.  People with ADHD – adults and children alike – tend to be less patient than most.  We hate waiting in line.  We want everyone to get right to the point (although some of us struggle with that ourselves).  We want our food right now.  Dang it, where is that waitress?! Maybe it’s our impulsivity.  Maybe it’s our hyperactive minds.  Maybe it’s because we have so many things going on in our lives, or our impaired sense of time.  Regardless of the cause, our need for instant gratification can be highly irritating to ourselves and the people around us. What to do?   Here are a few suggestions:

•    Always have something to keep yourself occupied. If you’re going to a place where you might have to wait, bring something to do.  Perhaps a book, or a crossword puzzle, or a notebook to write out your grocery list or brainstorm ideas for your next project.  Keep an audio book on your iPod.

•    Run errands at non-peak times. The lines at the grocery store are much shorter at 8PM than they are at 5.  Avoid the mall until January.

•    Get an estimate. It can be excruciatingly difficult to wait for something when you have no idea when it will happen.  You end up looking at the clock every 30 seconds.  But if you know in advance how long it will be, you can go find something else to do during that time.  Similarly, if you have to do something maddening, it can be much easier to tolerate if it’s not open ended.  If you can’t get an estimate, make one up: “I’ll wait for ten more minutes, then I’ll go see what’s happening.”

•    Ask for the bottom line. If you find yourself getting impatient with someone you’re listening to, there’s nothing wrong with politely interrupting and asking them to get to the point.  “John? (pause and wait for response) I’m starting to get lost in the details.  Can you just give me a quick summary please?”  If you’re talking with someone who has a habit of rambling, you might want to have a separate conversation with him about his monologuing.  You’re probably not the only one who gets impatient with it.

•    Communicate your limits. If your kids – or coworkers - ask one maddening question after another, decide how many questions you’ll answer before you say “no more”.   Tell them when the quota has almost been reached.  Don’t be afraid to stand your ground if you’ve been reasonable and provided fair warning.  This is much better than blowing up at them because you can't take it any more.

•    Release your grip. Accept that sometimes things will be what they will be, no matter what you do.  Try to let go of the things you can’t control.  As a Caribbean native told me years ago, “When you’re in a hot country, you’ve just got to move sloooooooooooow.”  Prone to road rage?  I like to think of slow traffic as more time to spend with my traveling companion.

•    Remove the obstacles. If you’re impatient with your own progress, try to identify what’s slowing you down.  Then figure out what you need to do to quicken the pace.  This is one time when impatience can work in your favor!

•    Find compassion. Try to understand why a person is acting the way she is, or why a situation is unfolding the way it is.  There’s nothing like walking in someone else’s shoes to make you appreciate the complexity of the situation and be more relaxed about it.  This goes for yourself too:  Be compassionate when you find yourself impatient with your own ADHD.

I’ll end with this quote from a sign that used to hang in my godmother’s kitchen:  “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get!”