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How to remain calm when stress in unavoidable

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How to remain calm when stress in unavoidable

When Bobby Sullivan was a teenager working in his father’s fledging tire shop, he might forget to do something and ruin a retread. “He would get mad and frustrated,” says the younger Sullivan. “He was struggling and had a big family to take care of. He’d just yell at me and say, ‘Get out of here!’ So I’d walk home.”

By the time he finished the seven-mile walk home, his dad, who had calmed down, would pick him up and drive him back to the shop.

“As the business matured, he developed great patience. So I learned what to do and what not to do from him.”

According to Dr. Beverly Smallwood, a licensed psychologist and author, even inpatient people have the capacity to be patient.

“When a person is stressed out, patience wears thin,” she says. “He or she can become more irritable, more critical. Fear — of not succeeding, of not making a good living for his family after taking the risk — also makes a person notice all the things that are wrong and/or threatening to success.

“Also, it seems that some people do become more patient as they live longer and gain the realistic view that people will make mistakes, that you can learn from those mistakes, and the world does not stop turning because things didn’t go just right.”

In her Web article “How to become more patient,” she lists five strategies for developing patience.

1. Become more realistic in your expectations.”Optimism is good, but unrealistic optimism about uninterrupted smooth sailing can sabotage the completion of important tasks,” she writes. “Expect and plan for delays, complications, and setbacks.”

2. View setbacks as temporary. “Research shows that the most resilient people are able to view problems as temporary.”

3. Keep the mentality of the problem solver, not the victim. People with a victim mentality “see themselves as unfortunate pawns of negative forces and other people who control their destinies. Problem-solvers, on the other hand, look at negative situations to discover what they can do. They are able to distinguish the things over which they have control versus the things that they can’t change.”

4. Reject bitterness. “Bitterness is the result of anger that is not resolved. It’s a killer — psychologically, relationally, and physically! Bitter people are anything but patient. They have short fuses, overreacting when even unrelated situations remind them of the person or event they resent. Resolve conflicts promptly, and/or choose to forgive and move on!”

5. Remember your successes in other difficult situations. “When you find yourself in a mess that seems unending... remember that you’ve been in tough situations before, and you’re still here.”

Although patience can be learned, some people are naturally more easy-going and peace-loving, says Smallwood.

“Our best research now informs us that over 50% of personality is genetic — the rest shaped by environment and by intentional work.”

Dr. Smallwood ( is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me: 10 Make-or-Break Choices When Life Steals Your Dreams and Rocks Your World.”

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