When it comes to stress, it’s often the little things in life that cause the most stress. Little things like waiting in line at the supermarket, getting stuck in traffic jams, or being put on hold for the third time can really irritate, even infuriate some people.
Yet those same people might handle the big issues quite well. They lose their house in a flood, their job is eliminated, or their spouse dies, and somehow they get through it with grace and dignity.
It doesn’t seem to make sense. In fact it’s crazy to let the little things stress you out. So what should you do?
1. Learn to keep things in perspective.
My learning on perspective came years ago. I had just left the funeral of a two-year old child and went into the parking lot to get my car which wouldn’t start. It was late; it was dark; I was in a bad neighborhood, and everyone else had already gone. Of course I called AAA to come and start my car.
Due to a number of circumstances, AAA couldn’t get there for a couple of hours. The AAA mechanic was very helpful and extremely apologetic about the delay. I was calm. I was okay with the entire ordeal, but the mechanic wondered why I wasn’t upset.
I’ll never forget the answer that came to me and has stuck with me all these years. I thought “How dare I be upset with a car that wouldn’t start or a two-hour wait when I just came from the funeral of a two-year old?” Put in perspective, my situation was nothing more than a minor inconvenience. It meant nothing.
I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times I’ve used that picture. Every time I think about it, my stress level goes down. I simply refuse to let the little things stress me out. I ask myself how important those little things will be in a week, in a year, or in the light of eternity. Of course, most of the time, those little things won’t matter at all, and so my stress goes away.
The next time you’re getting stressed out over a little thing, ask yourself “How important will this inconvenience be five years from now?”
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2. Let go of resentment.
A while ago I was conducting a series of interviews in an organization. I wanted to understand the organization and the people in it before I delivered my program.
What caught my attention was the number of managers, supervisors, and employees who referred to a particular executive and all the harm he had caused. The more negative comments I heard, the more convinced I was that it would indeed be difficult to work with that executive in that culture.
Of course, I wanted to meet that executive and get his perspective. Then I learned that the executive had died three years before, but the people were talking as though he was still there, ruining their lives. The executive was gone, but the people wouldn’t let go.
That organization and those people had problems because they were filled with resentment. And resentment is one of the most demoralizing emotions known to mankind. It will kill relationships, stop teamwork, level motivation, and ruin health.
So what do you do if you or your team is afflicted with resentment? REMIND YOURSELF THAT RESENTMENT IS UNREASONABLE. In other words, resentment never solved a problem or built a relationship. It does no good whatsoever. It’s like driving your car while looking in the rear-view mirror. If you spend too much time looking in the past, you’ll crack up in the present.
3. Find someone to talk to.
Kept inside, resentment will feed on everything that is good inside you. So get it out; talk it out, because THERE IS NO CLOSURE WITHOUT DISCLOSURE. Find someone who will listen, who will understand your feelings, and who will challenge you to move on.
What you don’t need is someone’s sympathy. You don’t need someone telling you how unfair life has been. That will do nothing but keep you stuck in your resentment.
Finally, after you’ve had your discussions and disclosures,
4. Refocus you attention.
Your resentment may have become pervasive and habitual, so it will try to resurface time and again. Whenever it does, force yourself to think of something else more positive.
Try this. Whenever an old resentment comes to mind, or there is a resentment that is still troubling, think of reasons why you should let it go. And with enough practice, your resentment will be a thing of the past.
There’s an old saying that says you shouldn’t stress the small stuff. True enough. That was my first point. But if you’ve got some bigger stresses in your life or work, use points two, three and four.