How to stop sweating the small stuff


shit could be worse

“I’ve lost everything!”

These were the words I was greeted by late one Saturday night as I opened the front door to my distressed flatmate.  “What do you mean?” I asked. She repeated, “I’ve lost EVERYTHING!”

Now I’ll let you in on a secret, she was a bit tipsy, so I assumed there was some overreaction going on.  I could see that she was still fully dressed so she hadn’t lost her clothes, she found her way home so I assumed she hadn’t lost her mind, but it was clear that she had obviously lost her keys.

I brought her inside and tried to get to the bottom of the situation.  Turns out she’d lost her bag.  In her bag were her keys, her phone and a small money purse, technically not ‘everything’. Fortunately I was able to work through this with her, help her realise the real scale of the problem and send her off to bed with a big glass of water. It did, however, get me thinking.  Here was a girl who had previously lost many possessions in a house fire, ended a relationship whilst travelling in a foreign country with only her ‘now ex’ partner and spent large amounts of time with no income whilst looking for work when returning back to Australia.  A phone, a few bucks and some keys seemed extremely minimal by comparison.

Clearly the few wines she had consumed provided an exaggerated response, and most of us are truly addicted to our phones these days so I can somewhat sympathise, however in the grand scheme of things my flatmate had just experienced a slightly annoying event requiring a little bit of admin the next day.

By focusing on what she had lost rather than how to deal with it, my flatmate caused herself a lot of unnecessary stress. The inability to deal with small, every day, negative events not only creates this stress but it can also lead to trouble.  Generally this is how awful things like road rage come about, a small annoyance that gets blown out of proportion and handled badly. But its good to know that whatever the circumstances when we suffer loss, or disappointment, or frustration, we do have the ability to deal with it.

Losing our attachment to small things (e.g. house keys) better equips us to deal with the situation and save ourselves a whole lot of pain. By putting things in perspective we can tune in to our previous experience, and personal resilience, and realise that we will be able to get past whatever roadblock has appeared. Further, research shows that those who turn their focus from the small negative events to the brief, joyful moments tend to be happier.  Happy people understand that there are ups and downs in life but focus on what goes right rather than what goes wrong, building greater resilience and contentment. So next time you loose your keys why not spend some time sitting on your doorstep, reflecting on all the good things in your life while you wait for the locksmith to arrive.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my flatmate’s bag was located with all items in tact. Seems she’d just left it on a shelf while she was busting out some moves on the dance floor. Next time, perhaps, a little less wine…


One thought on “How to stop sweating the small stuff

  1. Without keys to my hotel one night in Rougemont Switzerland I was faced with either hyperthermia or simply to climb through my window… ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ I thought, it’s only four stories up, I’m only a little bit drunk and although ugg boots wouldn’t be my first choice of footwear when scaling the outside of an icy building in a blizzard, they sure beat doing it in bare feet!

    Every time I tell that story it takes me right back there in Swiss bliss and that puts a smile on my face :•)

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