How to put things in perspective and focus on what matters mostOct 31, 2021
We all know THAT look… the look that says “really? That’s what you are stressed about?”.
You may be good at hiding it, but I am sure you think it sometimes.
You can blame NextDoor App for my train of thought in this week’s email.
I started using it during lockdown … and at the time I was struck by the positive community spirit that flowed with every message. In the modern world, this is how the Tribe finds strength in a crisis.
But for some reason this week it struck me that NextDoor has increasingly become the forum for one person to canvas other people to be angry about the things that irritate them.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing that we can honour what annoys us. Not dismiss or diminish our emotions but address them. And we can expect others to acknowledge and respect them too. Gone are the days of suffering in silence.
But, and here I may lose a few followers, some of the points of anger and irritation are truly first world or missing context. It suggests one of two things (or perhaps both)
1) we have lost our way a bit.
2) we are living with higher underlying stress levels than we realise
We are constantly “on alert”
One of the most telling signs of stress is that even small things trigger irritation or anger.
Sometimes this is because there are just too many things to think about.
We are probably already on “alert” and get swept up in the irritation of the group.
Often, it’s a sign that there are other things we aren’t managing well - I definitely sweat the small, first world stuff when it’s easier than addressing the big, more fundamental problems.
Learning how to not let the little things bother us or spiral can save a lot of time and energy.
So how can we start being more selective with what we get annoyed about... and leave time and energy to deal with what really matters. Basically,
How can we get better at putting things in perspective?
Try one of the following to help put things into perspective, understand or reframe them. It should reduce stress or irritation levels and stop things spiralling or building up
1) Make a list of everything that is irritating, annoying or angering you.
If you are a regular reader, or have done the course, you will know that writing things down is one of my go-to’s.
It stops things swirling round in our heads, forces different thinking patterns, can help us prioritise them and see where we are carrying feelings across from one thing to another
I will be honest, often as soon as I write something down I realise it really is quite silly! Or its something I moved past and just didnt update my brain on the status!
2) Reflect on the issue
We often get stuck in our initial, emotional reaction to something. There are lots of ways to reflect on an issue, but try asking yourself
- Will it really matter in a week or a year or 5 years? Will I even remember it (and am I likely to laugh at myself when I do?!)
- What is it that really annoys me in this issue? or why does it matter to me and what do I want? We can lose sight of what we want or need to change, of the actual problem to be solved! It could be that the solution is quick and simple, you just haven’t had time to focus on finding it.
- Sometimes this leads to a realisation that we genuinely cant control it or change it ... and maybe that’s the point of irritation we have to let go of
- Am I just being impatient?
- Sometimes when I reflect back like this I realise that the real frustration is my role in it – a decision, reaction, expectation
3) Reframe the issue
Sometimes we need to reframe it entirely, reconsidering it and whether it’s truly a problem, or re-evaluating it in a wider context or from a different point of view. If you were looking for a funny side to the situation, a positive or a point of change what could they be? If you rise up above your world/ life (plane, hot air balloon, top of a skyscaper,...), how big does this issue look?
This is especially helpful if it is SOMEONE ELSE who is irritating or causing issues. Can you reframe the situation from their point of view, be in their shoes? Being able to experience compassion is hugely beneficial to both stressful thoughts and emotions, but also to reduce cortisol levels.
4) Talk and listen rather than post
Voicing irritation or anger used to require talking to people face-to-face… now we can type a message, sit back, and wait for confirmation of our position, or angry opposition, to come back.
By talking to people we know and trust we not only get the words of their response but also their physical expression. Empathy and ability to read people isnt at its highest when we are stressed or angry, so its worth making a special effort to actually look at them as you are talking – facial expressions, breathing pattern, body language will all give you clues as to their reaction. And ASK them, ask them to be honest and objective (just promise you will do the same in return!)
5) Take a breath!
This always appears on the list ... take a few deep breaths to engage your parasympathetic nervous system, disengage the alarms.
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