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“That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”
We could all agree on the amount of stress caused by such major players as divorce, problem kids, bankruptcy, unemployment, moving, ill family members, grief, health problems, chronic pain, job changes, excessive bills, etc. Events of this kind are expected to bring about stress and all the ills that go with it.
But what about the more common contributors, the minor players we refer to as daily hassles? Most people would be surprised to learn that an unhappy marriage, for example, actually causes more stress than a divorce. Remaining in a job that you hate? Every bit as stressful as not having a job.
Traffic, unruly children, long commutes, time constraints, interfering in-laws, nosy neighbors, dieting, clutter – they aren’t just pains, they’re painful.
If you were to write down, daily for the next two weeks, things which annoyed you or things you’d term “hassles”, you’d be amazed at the number. The busier you are, the higher the number would be. These “hassles” become such a part of our lives that the sheer presence of them no longer alarms us.
But it should.
Studies have shown a direct relationship between the number of daily hassles in a person’s life and their health. The higher their number of hassles, the poorer their health. Fortunately, we can turn the tables: When the hassles DECREASE, the quality of health INCREASES.
Are you ready to see what we can do about those daily hassles?
First things first: We have to identify them. Think about the past week. What things provoked you or did you find to be greatly annoying? Write them down – putting a star beside each entry every time they recurred. (Your mother in law may be a four star general if she was in top form.)
Now go back over the list, you’ll immediately see the area(s) where your attention is most needed. Depending upon the situation, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Did anything I did/do contribute to the hassle. What could I have done differently?
2. If it were entirely someone else’s fault, am I close enough to them to discuss the situation? If they aren’t close enough to me that I can reason with them, why am I allocating them enough power to bother me? I’m giving them more power than I’m giving myself.
3. Is there anything at all I can do to erase this hassle from my life?
4. Am I overreacting? (Sometimes, things seem much worse to us than they will when we’re a little further removed.)
Every hassle that you remove improves your health, your happiness and ultimately your life. But what about the hassles beyond your control? The ones that you have to look at and just say, “It is what it is.”?
There’s only one thing you can do about these static cling hassles. You have to inject more fun, laughter and relaxation into your life. This does more than just make your inner child smile – it balances out the hassles. It’s when there’s no balance that you really have a big problem. That’s one of the reasons a round of golf or an evening of tv is so deep-down satisfying. It’s like our psyche knows it’s time for recess.
Take up tennis or golf, watch Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy or Sanford and Son reruns, go out for ice cream with your family, adopt a pet from the local shelter, adopt two pets from the local shelter, devour old “Bloom County” books, have a coconut cream pie milkshake from Sonic…It’s impossible to feel anything but good if a pet is at your feet, Barney and Andy are on the tv, Opus and Bill the Cat are nearby, and you’re sipping one of these shakes. Yes, studies have been done – in my living room.
UNTIL ANDY AND BARNEY COME ON:
It’s time for professional help if you find yourself trying to cope with stress in these ways…
- Putting miniature marshmallows in your ears and humming loudly.
- Using your Mastercard to pay your Visa and vice-versa.
- When someone says “have a nice day”, telling them you have other plans.
- Filling out your tax form using Roman numerals.
- Taping pictures of your boss on watermelons and launching them from high places.
- Leafing through “National Geographic” and drawing underwear on the natives.
- Tattooing “Out to Lunch” on your forehead.
- Buying a subscription to a sleazy magazine and sending it to your boss’s wife.
- Paying your electric bill in pennies.
- Driving to work in reverse.
- Reading the dictionary upside down and looking for secret messages.
- Starting a nasty rumor and see if you recognize it when it comes back to you.
- Staring at people through the prongs of a fork and pretending they’re in jail.
- Making up a language and asking people for directions in it.
- Billing your doctor for time spent in his waiting room.
- Calling up everyone in your address book and when they answer, saying “I must have the wrong number”.
Get rid of the hassles you can, and balance out the rest!
Make each moment count double,
For articles dealing with stress and relaxation, see the article archives at The Mental Fitness Center.