I have a confession to make. When dealing with issues that get me frustrated, I am more grumpy than I would like to admit.
So once in a while, I’m prone to “losing it”. And that’s what happened the other day.
Things at work got intense – when things don’t go the way I’d hoped, I get very frustrated and then I’m not so nice to other people – I got off a phone call that left me feeling angry, frustrated and tired.
I decided to take a break and have a time out. I work from home most days, and on this particular day, I was home and decided to go downstairs and watch my 10-month-old baby boy play around for a while just to get my mind off things.
As most babies around this age, he’s starting to learn about mobility and what it’s like to move around. He crawls and is now starting to stand up and walk. He gets a few steps in before he falls over and starts again.
In the middle of my living room where he was playing, there is a step – just one – and he was right by it and got busy trying to go down the step.
While looking at him, I caught myself wishing that there was no step in his way, simply because I just wished it would be easier for him to move around without that hurdle. I was worried about the challenge he would face and studied his reaction to make sure he was okay the whole time.
But then I noticed something as I watched him in worry. He was absolutely fine.
I was watching his face – he was not happy or sad. He was just doing what he was doing. His facial expression did not demonstrate any negative emotion – not even fear.
Actually, he seemed to rather like it. He had this focused yet happy smile while he was moving his little feet around bit by bit. He made his way down the step, smiled, then slowly turned around to try again.
And in that moment it hit me.
Challenges. When we are growing up we face them all the time. We learn to walk, talk, eat, clean up after ourselves. Then we have to learn skills for life and so much more. There are many big learning milestones in our life and all with their own learning process.
A moment of trying, failing and starting again.
When we were younger though, we didn’t resist them. We would do the exact opposite of what we were told to do. We accepted challenges. We embraced them. We enjoyed the process and what we learned along the way.
However, at some point of our life, things changed. We stopped liking and seeking challenges. If fact, we do our best to avoid them. We see them as problems, issues, “unnecessary”.
We associate these with emotions like anger, frustration, sadness. And we take them personally. “Why is this happening to me?” is our cry of woe and then we walk around on eggshells to avoid any type of obstacle that could make us feel uncomfortable.
But I realized that by doing this, we’re missing the bigger picture.
Challenges exist to help us grow, to make us a better person with hopefully some valuable lessons behind us.
After seeing my kid trying to accomplish a “mission” that was bigger than he was (and in retrospect dealing with a bigger challenge than the one I was having with work), I breathed a sigh of relief, smiled and went back to work.
I decided that if he can learn to walk without making a big fuss about it, I can deal with my work issues with a better attitude. And that actually that worked out perfectly.
So, if you catch yourself facing some high stress moments or if you tend to lose your temper when something doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, here are two simple things you can do to change your mood and energy in a minute. And believe me, it works.
1. Let Go
We get so caught up our problems that we don’t see the full dimension and scope of it.
The best way to put things into context is to let it go. If your stress levels are boiling over, distance yourself from the issue immediately so you have the chance to look at things from the outside instead of getting so caught up in it.
Take a walk, have a cup of tea, daydream out your window or just sit still and take deep breaths for a few minutes. (Breathing is actually a great way to release tension and calm us down – try taking several deep breaths when you’re upset the next time and notice the difference.)
2. Change Your Perspective
Most of the time we get frustrated because we want things to happen exactly the way we want to.
But there are many other options for something to be done or for things to turn out, that can be just as good (or better) than our way of doing or looking at things.
If you are having trouble disassociating from your problems and challenges, and you feel like it’s taking over your thoughts and your joy, ask yourself this: “If this was my last hour on earth, how would I want to live it out?”
(Here’s another great read on how thinking about death can help you make better decisions in life and any given moment.)
Is what you are experiencing that’s frustrating you really that important in the grander scheme of things? Answering that question can put some space between you and your problems.
As a reminder to keep my cool and not lose it during challenging times, I refer to a small Post-It by my computer. It says, “Breathe”. It really helps.
What are your tips to help you keep your cool when you catch yourself getting frustrated?