Think of a stressful event and chances are moving house, divorce or death spring to mind.
Yet according to TV psychologist Honey Langcaster-James, constant small stressors that build up every day can have a big effect on our emotional and mental health if left unchecked.
“Individually, each of these little niggles may not seem like much,” she says. “But our busy lives mean we are now bombarded with a huge number of them every day which can overwhelm our system.”
According to recent research from Compeed, Britons spend 36 minutes – up to two years of their lives – letting things get on their nerves.
Of 1,001 people quizzed by the blister brand, 84% admitted that something little riles them at some point each day, while 81% spend up to two hours every day letting minor things bother them.
Bad manners topped the list of Britain’s biggest bugbears, followed by anti-social behaviour on public transport, litter louts, and glory grabbers – people who steal promotion-winning ideas in the office.
Technology – especially phone snubbing, also known as ‘phubbing’, irritated 78% of respondents.
“People can end up suffering from what I call the ‘Buckeroo’ effect where they gradually get overwhelmed by lots of little stressors so that eventually it only takes one small thing to set them off,” adds Honey.
Below the social and behavioural psychologist shares 7 tips for calmer living.
7 ways to stop making life so stressful
BEING A PERFECTIONIST
It’s natural for us to want to do our best but sometimes this leads to perfectionist tendencies, where only a perfect outcome is judged to be good enough. There’s a well-known saying ‘don’t let perfect be the enemy of good’ and it’s so true.
TIP: Sometimes it’s helpful to aim for ‘good enough’ because, in most situations, it generally is.
DROWNING IN OPINION
We live in a very noisy and sometimes overstimulating world. Everyone has opinions, and we’re constantly bombarded with advice on social media, or from well-meaning friends. The problem is that we can forget to just check in with ourselves and trust our own instincts.
We get de-sensitised to the signals from our own minds and bodies.
TIP: Try and listen to what your body and mind are telling you first and foremost.
OVERTHINKING THE LITTLE THINGS
When people bump into us in life, either literally or figuratively, we tend to assume they’ve done it in order to deliberately annoy us, or because they’ve been rude or malicious in some way. The truth is, most of the time people are just too busy thinking about their own problems and lives.
TIP: We accidentally get in each others’ way sometimes, so try not to assume the worst in others.
Because everyone feels under such time pressure, there can be a tendency to want to multi-task, but then we end up spinning way too many plates and don’t actually cope with any one thing very effectively.
TIP: It’s best to deal with one thing at a time, give it your full attention, and tick it off before then moving on.
BEING TOO BUSY
Life is so busy now and on a daily basis, we’re confronted with many little irritations. Lots of little things pile up on top of one another until eventually, we just kick off in response to the slightest thing. Sometimes we become aware of little health-related niggles or stresses and strains but ignore them because we’re too busy. A blister, for example, is very painful and can stop you in your tracks but if you pop a plaster on it you stop it developing into a much bigger issue.
TIP: We need to remember to deal with things as we go along and not let them build up to unbearable levels.
WASTING ENERGY ON THE WRONG PEOPLE
With so many people in our lives to deal with and competing demands upon us, we can end up channelling our effort and energy into the wrong places and sometimes on the wrong people. Trying to please a toxic boss, for example, can make you ill, wasting your time on friends who don’t really have your back can leave you drained while some people are ‘energy vampires’ who just leave you feeling depleted.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to occasionally ‘say no’. Invest your time and energy into relationships that are profitable for you, too.
BEING HARD ON OURSELVES
From a young age, we’re taught to be the best we can be and achieve more and more, but this can lead us to drive ourselves too hard. What we forget is that it is just as important to learn to forgive ourselves and that we all find things tough going sometimes. None of us needs an inner critic, general society will point out our flaws more than readily enough for anyone.
TIP: Learn the art of being compassionate towards yourself, and be your own best friend. Take care of yourself learn to let everything else go because most likely, the rest doesn’t matter anyway.
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