Remember Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff? that self help book-turned-media-franchise that made history as USA Todays bestselling book for 2 straight years? There’s a reason people were scrambling to buy it back in the 90’s. Its philosophy spoke to a desire many of us have in common: to find simplicity in a chaotic world.
Sounds ideal, right? No matter how hectic work demands, dating drama, and social obligations can make your life seem, it’s all – as author Dr. Richard Carlson wrote, small stuff. If you can’t control it, there’s no point in sweating it. Consciously, we know this. But in times of stress, it’s easier said than done.
Try some of these tactics to help shift your focus and keep it simple:
Know it’s enough to focus on your strengths
Liberating life hack: psychologist Martin Seligman says that for a person to be truly happy and live a meaningful life, that person must recognize their personal strengths and use these strengths for the greater good. If we’re to take Seligman’s advice, we should devote our time to trying to identify our personal strengths rather than wasting our time trying to excel at things we’re not good at and stress us out. Shift your focus to cultivating what you already excel at, rather than beating yourself up trying to do something that feels impossible. Say yes to a meaningful life.
Stop complaining – even talking – about stress
Pretending you’re not stressed out – smiling, joking around with your co-workers instead of hunching over your laptop trying to tune them out, for example – might seem like it it would make you feel even more stressed, but the opposite is actually true. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh encourage smiling often and notes that the act of smiling relaxed the muscles of the face and has many benefits. His work inspired many people to smile as part of a spiritual practice.
Do the 5 year test
In times of stress, ask yourself: Will this matter in 5 years? Will I even remember it, really? When you’re experiencing something in the moment, you’re reacting to it on a visceral level (like a knee jerk reacon that has a residual sensation), which can feel much more intense than the situation actually is. Try to see things objectively.
Invest in your health
Investing in your health (taking the time to keep good sleep hygiene, eat right, and spend your time off in energizing ways), will help you avoid creating stressful situations and also help you respond to them effectively when they do come up. There will always be things that are out of our control – the only way to keep fires under control is respond to them in a calm, collected way. Make sure you are able to do that when need be.
Quit taking on too much
Notice if / when you’re taking on too much. You can say no to that extra assignment you don’t really want to do but think you should. To that birthday party for your kind of close but not really acquaintance. You’re free to do what you want. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself.
If all else fails, meditate. A quick meditation – whether its deep breathing or ducking out somewhere you can be completely alone – can be a secret weapon for coping with a stressful day, no matter how chaotic. Try these on-the-go meditation techniques you can do anywhere.