Why being delayed is often just what you need

We all lead such busy lives, trying to get to the next appointment or the next meeting. Sometimes, however, what we really need to do is stop, take a breath and live in the moment.

I am stuck at the airport. Flight delayed. Most likely will miss my connection.
I quietly curse our city’s loss of a major airline hub. It makes traveling much more difficult.
What am I going to do with this unplanned extra time?
I have two options: Option No. 1 is to get annoyed, upset and frustrated. I could roll my eyes, look important and feel mad at the world.
Second option: Enjoy the gift of time. This is rare: unplanned time in my packed schedule. No meetings to attend. No patients to see. No phone calls to make.
I choose Option No. 2.
I take a deep breath and decide to savor this gift because I never know when I am going to receive it. Now that I have it, I unwrap it slowly.
I look around and observe. People watching is forever entertaining.
I make a call to a friend, whom I haven’t spoken to in a while.
I daydream.
I go for a walk, adding steps to my daily log.
I stop at the newsstand and buy an indulgent magazine.
I swing by the coffee shop and try a different tea.
I sit and take a few slow, calming breaths.
I write in my journal.
I smile and say hello to a stranger. We engage in casual conversation.
I people watch again.
I listen to a podcast.
I get up and walk casually — I am in no rush.
Ahh, much better. I’m smiling. I found the gift of time.

Stress is not going to go away but it does not need to be our enemy.

The American Medical Association says that more than 80 percent of the visits to primary care are due to conditions that are either caused or exacerbated by stress. Unmanaged stress can bring out the worst in me. I become critical, impatient and judgmental — clearly not the leader I want to be. Resilience is a learned skill that allows us to bounce back from challenges and adversity.

Resilience is eliminating unnecessary self-imposed drama. It is making the commitment not to sweat about small stuff. Learning to manage stress is crucial to our physical and emotional well-being. To change my attitude, to reframe this event, to appreciate the gift of time did not cost anything and it certainly lowers my stress hormones.

If I am late to somewhere, I am right on time here.

Dr. Francoise Adan is Medical Director at University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network