Why is it that some people take life’s small setbacks, slights and missteps with a shrug, while other freak out, blow up, or fly off with loud outbursts or seething silence? To only fairly recently scientist did not recognize this as being significant to our health.
As it turns out, just as life’s more challenging events can flood the bloodstream with stress hormones, even the smallest of hassles can take a toll on our health as well. According to Nancy Nicolson, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at Maastricht University, in the Netherlands, “The changes are small – a 10 to 15 percent increase in cortisol levels in response to typical daily annoyances, as opposed to a 100 percent or more increase during a very stressful event,” like a college exam. But this small fluctuation “happen more frequently and can have a cumulative effect” says Nicolson.
Here are a few situations and how to remain calm using mental strategies.
You feel inconvenienced because you have rearranged your schedule to meet the cable guy at your apartment between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. He never shows.
How do you stay calm; reframe the circumstances by thinking differently which calms down your brain’s emotional region. Maybe you spent your morning lingering over coffee and the paper while waiting; try to view this as a rare opportunity and unexpected luxury, instead of a waste of time.
You may feel defeated after spending weeks preparing for a presentation but you end up blanking on all the key points of the talk. You go home and break down in tears as you replay the event in your head over and over again.
How do you stay calm: focus on the present because after all, “it’s never the stressed filled episode that you’re freaking out about.” The truth is you’re actually afraid of what could happen because of it. Whether you are worried about being reprimanded by your boss or laughed at by your colleagues, these are not real. Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist suggests quietly taking a moment to breathe in and two slow moments to breathe out. “Inhaling speeds up the heart rate,” he says, “and exhaling slows it down.” At the same time, say to yourself what you feel (I am embarrassed), then let that label disappear from view. “Labeling your emotions activates the emotional brain and engages the reasoning brain”, says Hanson. Now you can focus on fixing the problem.
You may be feeling anxious because your husband is running late, despite promising to be on time. Now you’re going to be late for your appointment and your toddler just spilled cereal on your shirt.
How do you stay calm: problem-solve even in this situation. People who are even keeled rarely appear stressed even in these situations because they are too busy looking for answers. Ask yourself, “How am I going to solve this?” Once you asked yourself this question you will wake up the reasoning portion of your brain.
Anyone can become more even keeled by using mental strategies and embracing optimism. “Optimism buffers the effects of stress – not only for everyday hassles but also for life-altering challenges,” according to psychologist Madelon Peters. Both of these techniques will help you to build resilience which will help you manage the major stressors in your life.
A final word of advice, when you are faced with a stressor; compare the world you created in your mind, that is often exaggerated with the real world and the everyday letdowns may become small and surmountable. If you need help making these behavioral changes call today for a free evaluation for therapy.