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Practical tips to 'sweat the small stuff' less

Updated: May 29

In our fast-paced world, it can be easy to get micro focused and then bogged down by minor annoyances and inconvenient issues. But this seemingly 'small stuff' can seem pretty 'big' at times and definitely stressful.

What are some practical tips we can start applying today to help ourselves?

It's been more than 25 years since psychotherapist and motivational speaker Richard Carlson wrote his bestseller 'Don't sweat the small stuff..... and it's all small stuff'' as a guide for us to find more peace and calm amid the busyness and chaos of daily life, and with more than 15 million copies sold worldwide, generations have now benefited from the tips shared.

Moving our focus from the small stuff or not let it affect us so much:

When we are in the middle of daily stressors it can be a challenge, although we instinctively know that we can significantly improve our mental wellbeing and overall happiness if we can move our focus and find more calm.

These practical tips might help you keep things in perspective and focus on what truly matters:

1. Prioritise Your Stressors

Not all problems are created equal. Take a moment to categorise your stressors based on their actual impact on your life. Is the issue at hand something that will affect you in a week, a month, or a year? If not, then it’s probably not worth as much of your stress as you are currently giving it.

By prioritising stressors, we can direct our energy towards solving significant problems and letting go of the more minor ones.

Action Step: Make a list of current worries and rank them based on their long-term impact. Focus on the top three and decide to let the others go, at least for a period of time.

2. Practise Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and observing our thoughts without judgment. This practice can help us detach from minor annoyances and reduce their emotional impact.

When we're mindful, we can more easily recognise when we're overreacting to a trivial issue and choose to let it pass.

Action Step: Start with a simple mindfulness exercise. Spend five minutes each day focusing on your breath, observing your thoughts, and gently bringing your focus back to your breath when your mind wanders.

3. Prioritise relaxation

Relaxation doesn't have to wait until the weekend or the end of the day or the point at which we have completed all our to do lists. (which will never happen)

We can snatch moments of relaxation in any day. By taking some deep breaths, we can squeeze some relaxation into the most heavy day or schedule.

Carlson says 'Your life is not an emergency'. Although sometimes that's how we face our days, stressing and rushing and working against ourselves and our emotional and physical wellbeing.

What if our life is a unique experience that only we get to live? And in the process of 'living', we find our true opportunity for fulfilment and joy?

Maybe we can aim to stop treating every day like we're driving an ambulance, rushing from one stop to the next, trying to please everyone all the time and catering to all needs, and prioritise our own just a little bit more.

Action Step: Remember that you don't have to get it ALL done today. We will never have a clear inbox or to do list. Give yourself a break.

4. Reconsider your Expectations

Often, we stress over small things because our expectations are incredibly high or unrealistic - the expectations we have of ourselves, of others or of external events and situations, which can lead to disappointment and frustration.

Do you identify as a 'perfectionist?' If you do, start to consider the idea of letting go of perfectionism, or at least considering that the only place it might exist is in nature. This could help to accept that we are human, and that mistakes and setbacks are part of our life experience and can often be the source of our learning and growth.

Action Step: The next time something doesn't go as planned, remind yourself that it’s okay.

For example, you might be starting a new job and thinking that you need to get ALL the processes down pat in one or two weeks. That's putting too much pressure on yourself.

What would you say to a friend who was placing that pressure on themself?

You could consider reframing the situation by asking yourself, "Is this a realistic expectation?" and adjust accordingly.

Carlson says, “Life is a process—just one thing after another. When you lose it, just start again.”

5. Learn to Let Go

Holding onto anger, frustration, or disappointment from minor issues can weigh us down. If we can learn to process and then let go of these emotions, we can free up our mental space for more important things.

This doesn’t mean ignoring problems but rather addressing them and then moving on. As human beings we are wired and meant to experience ALL emotions and not push them down or away.

Action Step: Practise processing and then letting go of your emotions.

I'm not getting a handle on this job as quickly as I would like.

  1. How do I feel? Disappointed, frustrated, uncertain.

2. Sit with the emotion for a few moments. How does that emotion feel in my body? I feel tight in the chest. Red in the face. Breathing faster.

3. Choose to let it go. You might have a conversation with yourself at this stage, speaking to yourself like you would someone you love. 'You've only been in the job 2 weeks - you'll get it. Look at the progress you're making? Who could help?

Consider using the "three deep breaths" technique. When faced with a minor annoyance, take three deep breaths and tell yourself, "I choose to let this go." or "I choose to solve this later." Repeat as necessary until you feel a sense of release.

When we spend a lot of time sweating the small stuff it can really detract from our quality of life and prevent us from enjoying the present moment and our experiences and opportunities. Plus it plays havoc with our physical mental and emotional health.

Remember, it’s not about ignoring problems but about managing your response to them and choosing where and when you might place your focus on them.

Until next time,

The PLS team



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