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5 Efficient Practices To Stop Sweating the Small Stuff

by Alema Ljuca 2 months ago in selfcare
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Implement them today and set yourself free.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

For the first time in 20 years, life expectancy in the U.S. has declined. At the same time, the suicide rate is the highest in 30 years. And in this case, it is not the pandemics’ fault.

The mental health of our society has been declining at a rapid pace while our stress levels have been rising just as fast. Those two issues combined are a killer.

A study by the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University followed 1,293 men for years and found that the most stressed-out people have the highest risk of premature death.

The director of the center, Carolyn Aldwin, shared the following insights:

“People who always perceived their daily life to be over-the-top stressful were three times more likely to die over the period of study than people who rolled with the punches and didn’t find daily life very stressful.”

We can not wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and expect to go through life stress-free, but we can learn to deal with life’s punches. Here are the five ways to not only stop sweating the small stuff but to turn the small stuff to your advantage.

1) Replace “Got to” with “Get to”

I got to wake up. I got to buy groceries. I got to study.

How about:

I get to wake up. I get to buy groceries. I get to study.

We are quick to express most things in our lives as musts: we got to work, we got to exercise, we got to eat healthily. And when we got to do something, we don’t get to choose it.

The words “got to” are followed by stress and musts. Those stress-covered musts become routines, and routines make us feel stuck.

On the other hand, the words “get to” are followed by gratitude and possibilities. When you see your job as something to be grateful for, you start looking at it as a great opportunity for further career advancement and connections.

Recognizing such opportunities makes you notice countless possibilities in the same environment you previously saw as a cage.

“Got to” is followed by stress and musts – “Get to” by gratitude and possibilities.

Gratitude is a proven way to combat negativity and replacing “got to” with “get to” is something you can start with at this very moment.

2) Clear Your Plate

If unsaid and not dealt with, the little things that bother us tend to accumulate. When that is the case, the next small problem which comes our way is often enough to send us into a spiral of stress, unhappiness, and anxiety.

The lead psychologist of the University of Miami study on brain activity, Nikki Puccetti, explained their findings on the matter:

“We found the persistence of a person’s brain in holding on to a negative stimulus is what predicts more negative and less positive daily emotional experiences.”

Basically, if you hold on to the stress and negative emotions you felt for one situation, you will project them onto the next one. This notion is known as the “spillover effect.”

On the contrary, the shorter the period that you hold on to negative emotions, the more positive ones you will feel in your everyday life.

To prevent dissatisfactions from snowballing into larger problems, we need to clean our plates. These two practices will help you with that.

1. Unload your mind

It has been observed that “during sleep, the fluid present in the brain and spinal cord — called the cerebrospinal fluid — washes in and out, like waves, helping the brain get rid of accumulated metabolic trash.”

Just like our physical brains get flushed out, our minds need to be cleansed too. All you need to relieve your mind of excess information and clutter is a piece of paper and a pen. In other words — journaling.

In her interview with Oprah, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling said: “Sometimes I know what I believe because of what I have written,” and that has been the case in many instances in my life too.

Journaling is not just a “dear diary” entry, and with the tremendous amount of information we consume nowadays, it has become a must to get thoughts out of our heads and organize them.

Whereas the unloading of information, feelings, hopes, and fears is the first step in journaling, the picture those written words paint is where the real self-help happens.

An article by the University of Rochester Medical Center explains how writing things down helps us recognize our triggers, negative thoughts, and behaviors and gives us a chance to identify ways to control them.

Journaling exposes our patterns, and when things become visible, it is easier to change them. Doing this has done wonders for me.

2. Throw the discomfort away

Another effective way to get rid of stressors is by physically throwing them away. It can be done in two ways.

The first way is to throw the negative thoughts away, literally.

Eighty-three high-school students were given three minutes to write down their negative or positive thoughts about their body image and then to think about them. Then, half of the students were asked to throw away what they had written and half of them to proofread their words. In the final step, all participants rated their body images.

The researchers found how the written thoughts of the students who kept them affected how they rated themselves. On the other side, the students who trowed their words away were not affected by what they had previously written.

A couple of similar experiments followed, and the results were the same: disposing of written words lessens their effect on us.

The second way to lift the burden of negativity is to de-clutter your living space. Clutter makes us stressed out, anxious, and causes us to feel trapped. In addition, the emotions and memories certain items we hold onto evoke are what makes us miserable in our own homes.

Not every memory is a good one, and there is no point in holding onto it if it brings more sorrow than joy.

Sometimes, a filled trash bag is a gift you give yourself.

“It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those experiences that we should treasure. This is the lesson these keepsakes teach us when we sort them. The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” ― Marie Kondō

3) The Power Of Perception

The director of the Oregon State University study, Carolyn Aldwin, shared another important finding:

“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems.”

Meaning: we give the situations we are in their importance, and a problem is only as large as we make it to be (I am not talking about life and health-threatening problems here).

If you overstress over traffic, someone else’s opinion of you, an Amazon package delivered one day later, and other less important matters, these three points will help you keep your head cool:

  • Don’t take things that are not personal, personally. If your coworker is nervous on a particular day and talks to you in a rude manner — don’t take it to heart. Not every negative word someone says to you requires a reaction, and not everything has to do with you. Brush it off and keep moving.
  • Neutrality and distance are your jokers. Some matters don’t deserve or require our undivided attention, full cooperation, and finding out what is at the root of the problem. Distance yourself from situations that are not worth it and which bring more harm than good.
  • Overthinking makes an elephant out of a mouse. Going all-in on everything and anything will leave you exhausted and mentally drained. Sometimes the best thing to do is to switch to autopilot and ride with the tide.

4) Sweat Out the Small Stuff, Literally

Endorphins are our body’s very own pain-killing hormone. And they don’t just kill the pain. They actually make us happy. So happy, in fact, that they help us relax and relieve stress despite having to psychically move our bodies.

Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, says his number one recommendation for chronic worriers is: exercise.

“If you could give one magic pill that would improve physical health, mood, reduce weight, this [exercise] would be it.” — Dr. Robert Waldinger

After all, sweating out the things that bother us doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Especially when you get a 3 in 1 in return: your body stays in shape, your health in check, and your head clear.

Experts recommend working out for 30 minutes every day.

5) Switching the Narrative

A lot of people lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of those people were my friends. Today, when any of them mention their former jobs, they talk about how they miss their colleagues, the conversations, the lunch breaks, the sense of accomplishment, and the after-work night outs.

In comparison, when they still had the job, they complained about their bosses, the working hours, and the unsatisfactory paychecks.

Too often, we appreciate things only when we lose them and focus on the negative when we are in the moment. And that isn’t even our fault. A now-famous 2005 National Science Foundation study stated that 80% of all our thoughts are negative and 95% are repetitive (the same as the day before).

Education and acknowledgment are the first steps of change, and by knowing these facts, we are reminded that our pessimism regarding certain situations is normal. That is why we have to stop ourselves in the moment and make a concision choice of what and how we think about things.

What we give energy to, we give life to, and when we focus on the positive — the positive gets more prominent. Appreciating things while we still have them gives us the chance to enjoy them over and over instead of us just reminiscing about them when they are gone.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” — Wayne Dyer

A Closing Thought

Our true power lies in self-mastery since our body and mind are the only things we really have (a level of) control over.

Self-mastery comes about when you respect yourself enough to rethink the situations you give energy to; and when you cherish your time to the point where you switch your focus to the things that empower you and bring you joy.

“Most of the critical things in life which become the starting points of human destiny are little things.” — R. Smith


This article was originally published on Medium.


About the author

Alema Ljuca

Through variety to clarity. International business student with a focus on strategy and innovation.

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