When we think about stress or adversity, we tend to think about the big things: getting that new job, moving to a new apartment or house, serious illness, or getting married. Psychologists have studied the impact of these life events on our health and well-being for years.
What is less well known, however, is the impact life's daily hassles have on our mood, well-being, and hustle. Hassles happen every day and sometimes many times in a single day-the jerk pushing into the queue ahead of us, missing the bus or metro just as the doors are closing, spilling coffee on our blouse or shirt just before a meeting starts. Probably the most frequent: the car or house keys with a mind of their own.
These hassles are why we need to have active resilience. Here's how to activate your resilience so you can focus on the hustle, not the hassle.Notice and name the hassle: A way to manage our emotional captivity is to notice and name our emotional state. When a hassle occurs, most of us become how we feel: I miss my bus, so I feel frustrated and I become frustrated. Then, I hold on to this feeling for a number of hours.
In this way, our feelings can hold us hostage and impact our behavior. But what if instead of I am frustrated, we instead said, I notice frustration. There is a big difference between these two statements. In the first, you fuse with and become the emotion. In the second, you separate yourself from how you feel by identifying what you notice.
Therapist Russ Harris explains the difference between the two self-statements by using the metaphor of a chess board. When we become how we feel, we focus on the pieces of the chess set. When we notice and name our feelings, we act like the chess board. The board is in contact with the pieces but doesn't become them.
Fuel not flood: Hustle requires energy and hassles sap our zip. A feature of most hassles is that we feel out of control, overwhelmed, and drained. This flood of feelings derails our equilibrium and productivity. A way to re-energize is to practice a particular type of goal setting. Psychologists have shown that getting mentally energized to achieve a goal creates physiological changes in energy.
A way to achieve this boost is to get our WOOP on (or "mental contrasting" if you want to get technical). WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. To get your WOOP on, you need to identify a Wish, an aspiration or goal you really want to accomplish.
Next comes imagining the way you will think or feel when you achieve your wish or Outcome. Obstacle is how you might self-sabotage or prevent yourself achieving your wish, and Plan, is what you will do when you inevitably collide with one of your obstacles.
The kicker in WOOP is acknowledging how we create our own barriers to getting what we want. For example, when we experience an inevitable hassle or obstacle, we can choose to wrap our arms around the negativity or acknowledge it as a fleeting emotion. They key is to remember our Wish and use that energy to drive us forward.
Do a hassle detox: Hassles build up in the psyche like sediment in a river. One way to detox is to work on your gratitude and gratefulness. According to some psychologists, grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm and love. Gratitude also protects us from envy, greed and jealousy.
There are a number of ways to practice gratitude. Many people use technology to remind themselves to be grateful, via free/inexpensive apps available for Android or the iPhone. If you'd rather practice gratefulness untethered, try a gratitude walk.
Pick a route, it might be in your home or outside, and spend five minutes noticing things you're grateful for. Walk slowly and let your eyes rest on various objects, and try to engage all your senses. Maybe reach out and touch different surfaces or fabrics. Maybe you feel grateful for the texture of a shirt or the smoothness of a leaf. If you really want to challenge yourself, think about a hassle that really ticked you off-the line jumper perhaps-and find something to be grateful for in that experience.
Find your uplift: One way to rise above a hassle is to find your very own psychological thermal. A thermal, or uplift, is a small, everyday event or experience that brings a smile to our face, a spring in our step, or the feeling that the world can really be a cool place.
How can you find your own uplift? They're all around us. What's interesting is that despite the fact we experience many uplifts a day-five or six on average-our hassles evoke a much stronger physiological and emotional response.
As neuroscientist Jill Bolte Smith observed, the physiological lifespan of an emotion is typically 90 seconds, but we often find ourselves clinging to feelings of anger, frustration, shame, or guilt. To take full advantage of your uplifts and minimize the impact of hassles, try one these techniques:
Breathe, restore and sustain: An uplift provides the equivalent of coming up for air, a refreshing, invigorating experience-if we allow it. Breathing out is the body's natural relaxant and focusing on a breath can sustain the pleasurable feelings that accompany an uplift.
Uplift is also a moment to catch our breath and restore our energy. Hassles often supercharge our normal behavior, and we end up suffering from hurry-sickness-multi-tasking as a way to escape or avoid the feelings that accompany a day of hassles.
Uplift is the perfect antidote to the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and continued sense of urgency because it allows us to press pause and fully experience a pleasurable or joyous event. It's also the gift that keeps on giving as the positive emotions we experience during an uplift broaden our perspective, making it more likely we experience more psychological thermals. In this way, we are able to sustain the benefits.
Engage: Uplifts remind us we are not one of life's passengers. In the midst of an uplift we feel alive and fully present. The reason is that positive emotions undo the mental knots that accompany hassles. To fully engage in an uplift or create your very own psychological thermal, try the 3 by 5 exercise.
At random moments during your day, spend a few moments noticing five things around you (what do you see?); listen for five distinctive sounds (what do you hear?); and experience five different sensations, internally, perhaps your shoulders are stiff, or you feel tense, or externally, perhaps you notice the weight of your bag or purse (what do you feel?). You can do a 3 by 5 exercise between meetings, on your walk to work, or even over lunch. There is no right or wrong time. The most important thing is you fully engage.
Hassles are inevitable. Some are the byproduct of daily living and some we inflict on ourselves. Whatever the cause, try noticing and naming the feeling, riding a psychological thermal, or getting your WOOP on to ensure the hassle doesn't collide with your hustle.
The writer is a consulting psychologist and contributor at -----Anna Rowley
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