Ten Tips for Cultivating Patience During Uncertain Times


It's easy to feel impatient with ourselves and others these days. But research suggests impatience can be bad for our health. Here's a better way to respond.

Fam Pract Manag. 2020 Jul-Aug;27(4):43-44.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

We are living through a time with many questions and few answers. Guidance changes quickly, making it hard to know what to believe. How far apart should we really keep from each other? Are masks really helpful? Will there be enough personal protective equipment (PPE)? As things reopen, is it really safe to go out again? When will there be a vaccine?

The uncertainties affect so many parts of our lives, including not only how we provide care but also our daily routines, relationships, parenting, exercise, worship, socializing, and hobbies. All of these fluctuations are further complicated by recent economic changes, including furloughs, pay cuts, and eroding financial stability for our practices.

We get daily reports on numbers of infections, patients under investigation, deaths, PPE availability, and intensive care beds. We read speculation about when the surge will hit and how long it will last.

We wonder how to plan, both personally and professionally. How can we take care of our own health and that of our families as we care for our patients, coworkers, and struggling health care systems?

With modern technology, many of us are prone to impatience generally. We expect instant gratification based on our experiences with Amazon Prime, DoorDash, Google, and microwave cooking. During this pandemic, it's easy to feel even more impatient — with ourselves, with others, and with circumstances. However, impatience can rob us of the gifts of the present; it can make us feel like we are constantly running, which prevents us from accepting the current moment. Research reveals connections between impatience and heart problems, loneliness, depression, and even shorter telomeres, which may speed up aging.1,2

On the other hand, research has found patience to be related to higher life satisfaction and meaning, lower depressive symptoms, enhanced self-esteem, higher self-control, and enhanced ability to accomplish goals.3,4 How can we be more patient with ourselves and each other?


Dr. Sherman is a licensed clinical psychologist and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (DFMCH) at the University of Minnesota (UM), Minneapolis. Dr. Schnitker is associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. Dr. Doering is a third-year resident in the DFMCH at UM. Dr. Slattengren is assistant professor in the DFMCH at UM.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


show all references

1. Schnitker SA. An examination of patience and well-being. J Positive Psychol. 2012;7(4):263–280....

2. Yim OS, Zhang X, Shalev I, et al. Delay discounting, genetic sensitivity, and leukocyte telomere length. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2016;113(10):2780–2785.

3. Schnitker SA, Houltberg B, Dyrness W, Redmond N. The virtue of patience, spirituality, and suffering: integrating lessons from positive psychology, psychology of religion, and Christian theology. Psychol Religion and Spirituality. 2017;9(3):264–275.

4. Thomas RM, Schnitker SA. Modeling the effects of within-person characteristic and goal-level attributes on personal project pursuit over time. J Res Pers. 2017;69:206–217.

5. Sweeny K, Rankin K, Cheng X, et al. Flow in the time of COVID-19: findings from China. Preprint. Posted online March 26, 2020. PsyArXiv. doi:10.31234/


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