Stress in Perspective

Feb 4, 2015 by

“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.”

– E. Joseph Cossman


          On my way to a fitness class at my pole studio last night, I was rear-ended – again. That’s three times in little over a year now (re: Breaking Beaut and Breaking Beaut – Again); so when my upper body was forced forward and back in that way it usually is when a car hits me from behind, I wasn’t even fazed. Honestly, the first thought that came to my mind was that maybe the cute guy at my favourite body shop (because I get rear-ended frequently enough to have one) is single now.

          Let me just say, The Beaut is such a champ! In the span of one week, he’s been towed, chained to the street by snow after two ploughs blocked him in from both the front and the back, and was rear-ended for the third time since November 2013. Fortunately, he doesn’t appear to have suffered any damages. (Cue Destiny’s Child’s Survivor.)

          “Your car goes through some missions, woman!” my second youngest sister texted me on Monday, the morning the ploughs imprisoned my car and the day before I was rear-ended.

          “Right?” I texted back. “He’s such a trooper!”

          “Seriously! But I guess that makes a perfect match,” she said with a smiley face.

          “Awwwww!” I virtually squealed. #flattered

          It’s funny that I shrug off getting rear-ended, but I’ll stress about whether to use the singular perspective or the plural perspectives in a sentence where both forms of the word are arguably appropriate (true story). I’m prone to getting stressed about little things. Since that is not conducive to happiness, I’ve had to teach myself over the course of The Happiness Experiment to put small stressors into perspective, which is not as simple as telling myself to “let the little things go.” The “little things” aren’t little until I perceive them to be little.

          You’d think that because I’m able to make the big things little (thanks to The Happiness Experiment, because the big things were bigger than big before it), I’d make the already little things miniscule. But, just as you can make something big small, you can make something small big. When I notice I’m thinking something out of proportion, I tackle the resulting stress by forcing myself to see the bigger picture. One tactic I use to do this is to imagine myself one year in the future and question whether or not I’ll care about the present stressor then. The answer is almost always no, regardless of the apparent size of the issue. As a result, I gain the perspective I need to minimize self-generated anxiety.

          When I need help convincing myself that I won’t be worrying about whatever I’m worrying about now in a year from now, I think back. I recall what I was stressing about a year ago to prove the mitigating effect of time to myself. Most often, last year’s stressors don’t matter today, thereby demonstrating the unlikelihood of today’s stressors mattering next year and minimizing my worries. Of course, being honest, not all stressors have a one-year-or-less expiry date. Some have potential to persist for longer, but even those ones can shed some positive perspective. After a year of coping with a particularly persistent stressor, it is at least less trying and more manageable than it initially was. Hence, looking forward and back can help scale down a present worry by placing it in proportion to the grand context of your life.

Happiness Tip: Ask yourself: Will this matter one year from now?

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