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.
Confession time: I feel like I’m a pretty positive person and I’m always optimistic about my future—but lately, I think I’m letting the little things get me down a bit too often.
A few weeks ago, I had a minor incident involving a basket of wrinkled laundry that left me thinking that *perhaps* I need to work a little harder on letting go and not letting the little things get to me.
I brainstormed and created an action plan for myself, which I’ve been testing and I think it’s making a difference. I’m still a work in progress but I feel like I’m getting better at letting go and moving on from things that don’t really matter.
If you’ve ever found yourself in the same boat, then I think there’s a good chance these ideas might help you too. Here are four ways to move on and stop letting the little things bother you.
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How To Stop Letting Little Things Bother You
I’ve divided this post into two parts.
The first half focuses on things you can do at the moment when you’re struggling with anger or frustration and you need to calm down.
The second part is a discussion of things you can do so that you’re less likely to get bothered by things in the first place.
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” but in my experience, when you complain about something, it magnifies the situation. You draw attention to the issue and make it bigger than it needs to be.
In full disclosure, I really struggle with this, but experience has taught me that complaining is a mindless habit.
It’s almost like a reflex and I do it without thinking—or, when I do it on purpose, it’s usually a case of making lazy conversation. It’s a tough habit to change but the more I call myself out, the better I’m getting stopping.
It’s hard but it’s worth it. When I make the effort to stop complaining, I almost always feel better and hopefully, I even have a positive effect on the people around me.
If you’re struggling, a healthy alternative to complaining is journaling. I’ve found that writing about my feelings helps me process them, so I can move forward with grace. 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.
LOOK AT THE LITTLE PICTURE
Sometimes I read too much into things, particularly when I’m feeling run down or tired (or worse—hungry!). When I’m not feeling 100%, it’s easy to misinterpret the intent behind other people’s little comments or actions.
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 more along the lines of “Everyone is just really, really hungry and likes cookies” but sometimes reality is hard to see—and to be honest, it doesn’t always matter.
Regardless of the real reason you missed out on a cookie, the truth 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 but perhaps 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 focus on the little picture. When you feel yourself getting upset, pause for a moment; turn your attention to what’s bothering you and try to frame it in it’s 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.
CHOOSE COMPASSION + FOCUS ON HUMANITY
If you find yourself getting upset with someone else—anyone from a loved one to a co-worker you hardly know—you can fight feelings of annoyance by choosing compassion and focusing on their humanity.
Let’s face it—it’s very easy to get annoyed with people, but it’s never a nice feeling. Sometimes you have a good reason and other times less so … but either way, letting go is often the best option and one easy way to do this is to think humanising thoughts about the person who has upset you.
If you’re not sure what I mean, then I encourage you to check out one of my favourite places on the Internet: the Humans of New York Facebook page.
With over 15 million fans and counting, you’re probably already familiar with it, but for those who don’t know the page shares photographs and stories of random New Yorkers. It’s become wildly popular because the creator shares the humanity (the history, the pain, the inner thoughts) of the people he photographs.
What the page has taught me is that we think of people with more kindness when we know their stories.
We can use this knowledge to be more compassionate in our daily lives; next time you get annoyed with someone, try to shift your focus away from whatever did to upset you and instead, think of their stories.
If you don’t know someone well, look for small details; think about how John from accounting always holds the door for you, or the way the lady ahead of you in the supermarket queue is speaking gently with 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
LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS
Often times, I have a picture of how I hope my day will play out in my mind. I imagine walking into my office early, making a nice hot cup of coffee, and having a fantastically productive morning. (Sounds great, doesn’t it?!)
But in reality, sometimes life happens: I can’t find my keys and I’m late out the door. Then, when I go to make my coffee … there’s no milk. When I finally get to my desk and open my inbox, I’m flooded with emails and when I next look up it’s 10 am.
My morning is half over, I’ve had NO coffee and I’ve done nothing on my to-do list.
At this point, it’s really easy to write the day off as a “bad day” because when you have high hopes for how things will turn out, it’s disappointing when things don’t go as planned. But the truth is your expectations are often clouding the reality of the situation.
If you can let go of your expectations and open your mind, you’ll notice that yes, the day is off to a slow start, but it’s far from over. There is still plenty of time to change course and turn things around.
If you find yourself getting frustrated or annoyed over something small, try pausing for a moment and asking if you’re letting your expectations affect the experience.
How To Not Let Things Get To You
Ultimately, if the little things are always getting to you, then it’s probably a sign that you need to turn your attention inwards. What’s going on with YOU that’s causing you to get so upset easily?
Here are a few final things I’ve learned from personal experience:
A LACK OF 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.
Here are a few self-care resources if you’re not sure where to begin:
- Check out these practical self-care tips, especially 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. It’s perfect for helping you let go of the past so that you can move forward with grace.
I’ve noticed that when I’m angry or upset with myself, it often manifests as anger or frustration with others. If this resonates with you, then here are a few things you can do.
- 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
When your life is busy and cluttered, it can feel like the world is closing in around you. You’re already stressed and overwhelmed—so when the littlest thing goes wrong, it can feel 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!
Related Post: 7 Inspiring Books on Minimalism + Simple Living
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.
Stop living for the weekends and instead, look forward at all the beauty in your life. When you do, you’ll be less distracted by all the little things that don’t matter.
Here are some ways to get started:
- Discover your core values and write your own definition of success
- Embrace intentional living—stop drifting through life and start living on purpose
- Start to be intentional with your thoughts and remember, the more clarity you have about the things that matter to you, the less bothered you’ll be about the things that don’t.
- Develop your self-worth … because when you’re confident in who you are, you won’t let other people’s opinions (or your perception of their opinions) get to you.
Add to Your Reading List: Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Dr Susan David. This book has been LIFE CHANGING and I cannot recommend it enough.
It takes time but slowly, I’m learning to let go of the things that don’t matter and I know with time, you can too. Be kind to yourself and take 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