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How to build patience in the time of coronavirus

5 Mar 2021
News 5 min read

In a time where we’re constantly looking for the latest updates and want things to happen quickly, how can we develop patience?

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There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has been a test of everyone’s patience.

But how can we teach ourselves to become more patient when our lives, goals or objectives we want to complete, are taking a long time? VicHealth CEO Sandro Demaio spoke to Raf Epstein on ABC Melbourne, looking at:

  • How long does it take to change our behaviours or habits?
  • What makes us impatient?
  • What can we do to feel less impatient or anxious about certain things?

Be Healthy was created by VicHealth to provide helpful tips and advice on how you and your family can stay healthy. You can read more Be Healthy articles here.


The challenge of behaviour change in a pandemic

Changing our behaviour can be a very challenging and difficult thing to do. According to Sandro, there are a lot of things that go into forming people’s behaviour in the first place.

“Behaviour change is very hard. The things we do every day, the habits we form, they really do become part of us. They’re a reflection of our personality, our environment, our upbringing. To try and change behaviours is very challenging,” Sandro said.

“What’s interesting though is the evidence suggests that it usually take at least a month of sustained change in the behaviour for it to become the new habit. What we’ve seen across 2020 is almost a forced change in many of the behaviours we have across our lifestyles.

“What we’re seeing as a result is some of those changes are sticking after we come out of lockdown and into COVID-normal. [For example] we’ve seen more people cooking for the first time across lockdown which is an important silver lining.”


What contributes to impatience?

A lot of the things that trigger impatience are psychological, said Sandro.

“Stress and anxiety, largely linked to anticipation or something that’s coming. Boredom or uncertainty as well, not having control or an understanding of what’s going to happen,” he said.

But it’s also important to remember that occasionally feeling impatient isn’t something to be ashamed of.

“A level of impatience is completely normal. It shows that we’re invested in the outcome and of course we all were ... because we’ve worked so hard, and we would like to make sure that our fellow Victorians stay safe,” Sandro said.

“But of course, too much impatience can force us to make unhealthy decisions, hasty choices or indeed can even affect our mental health. This is because at the core, impatience is a mix of a few different psychological factors.”


How can I work on my patience?

Wanting to become more patient can seem like a broad aim, so it’s important to think about ways to make small gains.

Sandro said the first step is to identify things which you can use to help break the cycle of anxiety, stress and impatience.

“I think it’s really about finding physical or psychological circuit breakers, for some people that will be a meditation, for other people it will be cooking, gardening or time in nature.

“Things that are both a relaxation and distraction and physically and mentally break the cycle of focusing on things that you can’t control and feed that uncertainty.”

If you’re unsure of where to start, utilising mindfulness or meditation podcasts and apps can be a great way to introduce yourself to different relaxation techniques.

“Start with something simple, I’d recommend there are some really great free podcasts that take you through things like a bedtime ritual or progressive relaxation. Give it a go and try something different,” Sandro said.

“Don’t expect everything to change overnight, stick with it and you might get some really great results.”


Tips for dealing with impatience and becoming more patient, from VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio

  • If you want to change behaviours, commit to it. Often meaningful changes can take a few weeks or even a couple of months, so stick at it.
  • Focus on the things you can control. Through the pandemic we’ve been impatient for restrictions to end and get to COVID-normal. There are things we can help do this, but it’s not something that you alone can control.
  • Writing things down can help. If you find yourself thinking about something a lot and becoming anxious about it, it can be helpful to write down the questions you have or create a list of thoughts and feelings.
  • Find your circuit-breakers that can alleviate the anxiety or stress. Things such as exercise, cooking, gardening or doing some meditation or mindfulness training with podcasts or free apps can be a good starting point.


For more VicHealth articles on how to look after your health in 2021, check out:


Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022
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Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.