The little things in life can cause significant problems for your happiness if you haven’t learned how to let them go.
Life is filled with suffering, both great and small. There are times when you will need to find your way through tremendous things that require every bit of your emotional resiliency.
Other times, you’ll be confronted with inconsequential bumps in the road that aren’t worth giving a second thought to.
There are different ways to handle these two types of problems that can help preserve your happiness and wellness.
That being said, it is worth noting that you are not a robot that should be devoid of all feelings. It’s both fair and reasonable to have negative emotions when you are mistreated or when things don’t go to plan.
What we don’t want is to lose control of our ability to choose or have our emotional state dictated by the actions of other people.
By surrendering that, we give up a great deal of control of our happiness, because other people aren’t going to care about your peace of mind and happiness like you do.
Let’s look at a simple 7-step process for defusing these emotions so you can learn not to let things bother you.
Step 1: Identify the situation.
The easiest way to solve a problem is to identify what the problem is.
Break the problem down into an easily manageable sentence that will let you clearly define what you’re experiencing.
Is it an argument with a friend? A flat tire? Conflict with the boss at work? Stress about an unexpected shift in a life situation?
Let’s consider two different examples, one big and one small, to better illustrate how this process applies to both sizes of circumstances.
The small example will be getting a flat tire.
The large example will be losing your job.
Step 2: Identify what you’re feeling and why.
Understanding what you feel allows you to employ strategies that work for you to deal with those feelings.
You can’t effectively defuse an emotion if you don’t understand what you’re feeling.
Are you angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated? What feelings are at the root of the thing that is bothering you?
A flat tire is an annoying inconvenience that can easily ruin your day if you let it.
You might be feeling upset or scared if the tire blew out while you were driving down the highway, and you had to pull your car over in an emergency.
You might be feeling frustrated and annoyed that you walk out of your house to see that your tire is flat. Dealing with a flat tire requires time that you may not have in your busy day.
It’s reasonable to experience several emotions because of a flat tire.
Losing a job invokes a lot of complicated feelings. There’s the stress of financial insecurity, the unknown of how you will take care of yourself and your family in the coming days, and when you will be able to get back to work.
There may also be doubt in yourself or your capabilities. Should I have lost my job? What could I have done better to maintain my employment? Was I treated fairly by my boss or not?
You might experience fear, anger, or frustration. Maybe all of them at once!
Step 3: Look for the facts of the situation.
Emotions often cloud our ability to see the truth. It’s difficult to see our role in a situation when we are too angry or frustrated to examine the situation.
The great thing about facts is that they don’t require you to have any feelings about them. They simply are or are not, which makes them an ideal anchor to keep yourself grounded when trying to sort through your problem.
Flat tires happen from time to time. It’s just part of owning a car. It’s a situation that is often outside of your control. How could you have seen that nail lying in the road that you drove over? Would it have been possible for you to avoid it? Probably not.
Why did you lose your job? Is it because there isn’t enough work right now? Did you make a mistake that was serious enough to warrant losing your job? Why did your employment need to end?
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Step 4: Ask yourself, “What is my responsibility for the situation?”
After you’ve established the facts, it’s necessary to consider what role you might have played in whatever the situation was.
Did you do anything to cause it? Did you throw fuel on the fire and make it worse? What responsibility is yours for what happened?
This is a valuable step for defusing interpersonal conflicts because the actions of other people are often driven by what’s going on in their minds.
A person may lash out in anger because they are having a hard time dealing with something that you may not be aware of.
Is it fair for that person to take their anger or frustration out on you? No. Not at all. But you can’t control anyone’s actions but your own.
Sometimes things just happen that you have no control over.
There’s no responsibility to be had for the flat tire.
In the example of losing a job, it depends on why you lost the job. Maybe your actions, whether intentional or not, directly resulted in you losing your job.
Or perhaps it was just a shift in the economy and things not going well for your employer, so they feel the need to downsize.
What role did you play, if any? It’s okay if the answer is “none.”
Step 5: Feel what you need to feel and then let it go.
Things are going to bother you from time to time. There is no avoiding it. It is reasonable and healthy to experience negative emotions when bad or unexpected things happen in your life.
Negative emotions are what spur us on to take better actions and improve our situation. If you don’t like the way a situation makes you feel, that is your brain telling you that you need to do something to change your circumstances.
The key is not to dwell. There is only so much thought and consideration that can be given to a negative situation or feelings before it stops serving any kind of purpose other than beating a dead horse.
Take some time to feel what you need to feel and then force yourself not to dwell further.
That is an active process of putting your mind onto other activities, like exercising, reading a book, or meditating. It’s anything that isn’t just sitting, thinking, and stewing on the negativity.
A flat tire doesn’t require any emotions at all. It’s just a flat tire. Yes, there may have been some initial shock and panic if it happened to be a blow out while you were driving, but that is something to feel and let go.
Otherwise, it’s a choice of telling yourself that you’re not going to stress about it and shift your mind to focus on something else.
Losing a job invokes many other emotions because there is so much uncertainty.
A person who loses their job will likely struggle with negative emotions over a long period, whether it’s because they are out of work or because they were treated unfairly.
They may find that they need to process and let those emotions go multiple times before they find peace with the situation.
Step 6: Take action.
Negative emotions serve a valuable function in that they are telling you to take action.
Your brain is telling you, “I don’t like this. Do something about it.”
And though we cannot control the things that happen to us in our life, we can always control what we respond to and how.
A flat tire is an easily defeated thing. All you need to do is get the tire changed and fixed.
Is it annoying to have an unexpected flat tire? Of course. But it’s nothing to lose sleep over in the major scheme of things. Get the tire changed, fixed, and get on with the business of living.
You may not have been able to control whether or not you lost your job, but you can control what you do about it.
Take action. If you feel you were mistreated, you may need to have a conversation with an attorney or labor board about the business’ actions.
That’s not likely to get you back to work any time soon, though. Instead, you may need to start looking for another job in earnest, apply for available unemployment benefits, or start looking for alternative ways to keep things afloat while you look for a new job.
Step 7: Be kind to yourself.
Even the best-laid plans can be blown apart by completely unexpected circumstances. It’s always a possibility that we must accept as we try to preserve our peace and happiness in life.
Don’t be surprised if it takes a while to make this style of thinking into a habit. It’s a challenging skill to develop.
The good news is that it gets easier the more you do it. The more you do it, the fewer things will bother you overall. You just have to keep applying yourself and working at it until it becomes natural for you.