Are you wondering how to not let things bother you? I’ve asked myself the same question many times over the years. This is what I’ve learned about letting go of small things, so you can get on with enjoying your life.
Have you ever found that you’re going about your business and feeling pretty good, when suddenly … a teeny, tiny, non-important stumbling block comes across your path and stomps on your day?
Not sure what I mean?
I’m talking about the moment when there’s no milk for your coffee, someone cuts you off on the freeway, or there’s a fifteen-minute wait at the post office.
It’s when someone forgets to say “thank you”, or leaves the laundry out in the rain, or disagrees with your taste in films.
It’s how you feel when you burn your eggs at breakfast or find out that someone ate the last of the ice cream. Or the frustration of getting yet another annoying email from a co-worker asking where to find a file AGAIN.
I used to let these little things bother me so much, but do you know what? Getting mad and frustrated only make my life harder than it needed to be. I’ve since learned there are better ways to manage my angry feelings. If you’ve ever wondered how not to let things get to you, here are my top tips.
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Understanding our feelings of anger and frustration over small things
If you’ve ever wondered “why do I let things bother me so much?“, then here’s the most important thing you need to know.
When you’re in the moment, there are constructive ways you can deal with frustration or angry outbursts. These are important because you need space to deal with intense feelings. Later in this article, I’ll share four practical tools that help me when I find myself in one of these situations.
But at the same time, I’m conscious that how I respond to stressful situations is only one piece of the puzzle.
If you truly want to stop feeling angry, frustrated and bothered all the time, the best way to begin is by looking inwards. What’s going on in your life or your mind that makes it so hard to let things go? My guess is there’s something under the surface that makes it hard to regulate your emotions.
I know because I’ve been there—but after a LOT of self-reflection, I’ve learned there are things I can do to avoid getting so upset in the first place. It’s sort of a two-part process: improving emotional regulation when I feel myself getting bothered, and also exploring my underlying condition so I’m less likely to let things get to me.
IMPORTANT NOTE: In this blog post, I’m sharing what I’ve learned as I’ve struggled with anger issues and overall grumpiness. But let’s be real: sometimes you need the help of a mental health professional. If you have uncontrolled anger, please don’t hesitate to talk to someone, especially if it leads to aggressive behaviour.
4 practical ways to stop letting the little things bother you
1. Resist the urge to complain
Believe me, I know this is easier said than done, but I’ve learned that the quickest way to keep something from bothering you is to not complain about it.
I know this goes against the popular belief that you should ‘get things off your chest’ and let me be clear, I don’t believe in toxic positivity. It’s normal to have negative feelings, but in my experience, complaining tends to magnify the situation. You draw attention to the issue and make it bigger than it needs to be.
It’s the whole, mountain out of a molehill thing, you know?
Now in full disclosure, I struggle with this, but experience has taught me that complaining is a mindless habit. It’s almost like a reflex, something I do without thinking—or when on purpose, it’s often a case of making lazy conversation.
It’s a tough habit to change but the more I pay attention (and call myself out), the better I’m getting at stopping. When I make the effort, I almost always feel better and hopefully, I act as a role model to the people around me.
If you’re struggling, why not try journaling? I’ve found it to be a healthy outlet for my thoughts, and writing about my feelings helps me process them. If you’re new to journaling, here are some tips on how to get started. Alternatively, you might enjoy these self-care journal prompts for tough times.
2. Look at the little picture
Sometimes I read too much into things, particularly when I haven’t go enough sleep or worse—I’m hungry!
For example, “I’m upset because someone ate the last cookie without offering me one” morphs into “I’m upset because no one here thinks about my feelings.”
The truth is probably somewhere along the lines of “Everyone is just really, really hungry and likes cookies” but when I’m worn out, I have a hard time seeing it.
And you know, it rarely matters. Regardless of why you missed out on a cookie, the reality is you can’t control the things that happen to you, but you can control how you react. It’s not always fair but the less you let things bother you, the happier you will be.
This isn’t to say you should never stick up for yourself or accept verbal abuse, but you should choose your battles—or at a minimum make sure there’s actually a battle there to fight!
One quick and easy way to be less bothered is to reframe the situation. Try focusing on the ‘little picture’ by paying attention to what’s bothering you and framing it in its simplest form. For example:
- Instead of “The service in this restaurant is horrible!” (Outrage!)
- … try “I’m upset because my waitress forgot to refill my coffee.” (No big deal)
- Instead of “No one here respects my time.” (Sobs quietly at your desk)
- … try “I’m upset because I asked a question in my email and he didn’t answer it.” (Poor attention to detail, forgivable at 8 am on a Monday morning.)
When you choose to focus on the little picture, you choose not to let little things upset your day. Or eat a cookie—low blood sugar levels aren’t good for anyone!
3. Choose compassion and focus on humanity
If you find yourself getting upset with someone—from a family member to a co-worker you hardly know—you can fight feelings of annoyance by choosing compassion and focusing on their humanity.
Now I know, this sounds a bit ‘woo woo’ but stick with me. Because as easy as it is to get annoyed with people, it’s never a nice feeling. Sometimes you have a good reason and other times less so … but if you don’t want to fall victim to extreme irritability then give this tip a try.
When someone invokes an angry response from you, try to think humanising thoughts about that person.
This tip was inspired by Brandon from the Humans of New York, where he shares photos of strangers along with their stories. It’s intimate; somehow he manages to get people on the street to share private thoughts, from their darkest fears to their greatest hopes.
In a world where the comment section of any social media post is usually overrun with angry people, this slice of the Internet has taught me that we think of people with more kindness when we know their stories.
And we can use this knowledge to be more compassionate in daily life. The next time you get annoyed with someone, shift your focus away from whatever did to upset you and instead, think about their stories.
If you don’t know the person well, look for small details: think about how John from accounting always holds the door for you, or how the lady in the supermarket queue is speaking kindly to her daughter.
These little moments act as reminders that the person you’re annoyed with is an actual person, with feelings and struggles just like you.
Add to Your Reading List: Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton (affiliate link)
4. Let go of expectations
I often have a picture of how I hope my day will go when I wake up. I imagine walking into my office early, making a nice hot cup of coffee, and having a fantastically productive morning. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
But in reality, sometimes life gets in the way. I can’t find my keys and I’m late out the door, there’s no milk for my coffee, and when I finally get to my desk, I’m flooded with emails.
Next thing I know the morning is half over, I’ve had NO coffee and I’ve done nothing on my to-do list.
At this point, it’s tempting to write the day off as a ‘bad day’. When you have high hopes and things don’t go as planned, it’s disappointing and often leads to a short temper. But one thing I’ve learned is our expectations can cloud the reality of the situation.
If you let go of your expectations and open your mind, you might notice that yes, the day is off to a slow start, but it’s far from over. There’s still plenty of time to turn things around, but only if you choose not to sweat the small stuff.
Instead, try pausing for a moment and asking if you’re letting your expectations affect the experience. You might find yourself giving in to negativity when there’s really no reason for it.
The Simply + Fiercely Show is a podcast for women who want to clear their clutter and create space for freedom and joy. If your life keeps getting bigger—but not better—then it’s time to declutter from the inside out. LISTEN NOW
How to avoid getting angry and frustrated in the first place
The above tips are what help me calm down when I find myself getting angry over small annoyances. But now I want to share some of the things that me feel less bothered or upset in the first place.
Because here’s the thing: if the little things are always getting to you, then it’s probably a sign of deeper problems. What’s going on with YOU that’s causing you to get so upset easily? Why do you struggle to let go of anger?
These questions aren’t easy to answer, but when you spend time getting to the root cause of your feelings, the payoff is worth it. Not only are you less easily bothered by tiny things, you also feel better about life in general. Or at least, that’s been my experience.
Here are a few things that had a major impact on my life. This is not an exhaustive list, but if you’re in a similar situation, it might help you understand the real issues and how to work through them.
1. Practice self-care
This is SO important. I’ve noticed that when I don’t take care of myself, then every little thing bothers me. I’m tired, cranky, and irritable—and I take it out on the people around me.
If you can relate, then the solution is prevention. Practice self-care before you’re completely worn out and you can avoid getting to the stage where everything gets under your skin.
Now, I know it’s easier said than done, but give it a try. Keep your stress levels under control, get enough sleep, and eat healthy meals; you know the drill. My guess is it’s less about knowing what to do and more about making it a priority!
But it really is so important for your mental and physical health, so give it a try for just a couple of weeks and see how you feel. And if you need a few resources to get started, check these out:
- My top practical self-care tips (a must-read if the idea of self-care overwhelms you and you’re not sure how you’ll make time to get it done).
- Here are 5 ways to use your journal for self-care. Journaling has had a massive impact on my life, and I highly recommend it to everyone.
- This is my FAVOURITE self-care journal (affiliate link). It’s perfect for helping you let go of the past so that you can move forward with grace.
2. Practice self-compassion
A few years ago, I started wondering why I got angry so easily. Something was always bothering me, and I didn’t know why.
But then I noticed a pattern …
When I’m angry or upset with myself, it often manifests as anger or frustration with others.
Every little thing was bothering me because I was already feeling triggered. If this resonates with you, then self-compassion is the answer. When we’re kinder to ourselves, it’s easier to be kinder (or at least patient) with others.
Here are a few things you can do to get started:
- Stop comparing yourself with others.
- Check out these tips on how to be kind to yourself.
- Here are a few gentle reminders for when life gets hard.
Add to Your Reading List: Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Dr Kristin Neff (affiliate link)
3. Create space
When your life is busy and cluttered, it can feel like the world is closing in around you. You’re stressed and overwhelmed—so when the littlest thing goes wrong, it feels like a mountain in your path.
Clear your heart, your home and your mind—and watch what happens. I can almost guarantee that with more space in life, you’ll be better equipped to handle life’s little annoyances.
If you’re not sure where to begin, here are my top tips on getting started with minimalism. (And by the way—it’s NOT about getting rid of all your stuff. Instead, it’s about curating your life so that your stuff is SERVING you.) I’ve also put together this round-up of my top decluttering tips for your home and life.
Add to Your Reading List: Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki. This is a beautiful, non-judgemental book about simplifying your life! (affiliate link)
4. Live life to the fullest
And finally, I encourage you to focus on living your life to the fullest. I know that’s a cliche that gets thrown around a lot, but I truly believe in it.
Stop living for the weekends and instead, look forward to all the beauty in your life. When you do, you’ll be less distracted by all the little things that don’t matter.
Add to Your Reading List: Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Dr Susan David. (affiliate link) This book has been LIFE-CHANGING and I cannot recommend it enough.
It takes time but slowly, I’m learning to be less angry and frustrated when I don’t need to be—and I know with time, you can too. Be kind to yourself and take life one day at a time. We’ve got this!
How do you deal when the little things start to get to you? I’d love to hear any of your ideas or it would be great to know if any of these methods help you. Let me know in the comments! x