Making Peace With Daily Hassles

Nature very smartly evolved our brains to have a “negativity” bias. This is because staying alive depends on being aware of threats in the environment. Your brain watches carefully for things that are “not good”, that might threaten your wellbeing or survival.

Though we have evolved to a point where we are much safer than in pre-civilization times, the programming is still quietly present deep inside the brain: “Watch for any threat! It could mean life or death!”  The problem is that this filter, intended to be protective, applies to anything you perceive as a problem since it is “fail safe”. That means you could have a fight or flight response when you can’t find your keys or you’re running late while stuck in bad traffic.

These are the hassles of daily life we tend to react to in a negative way. Losing your keys doesn’t threaten your survival, but it does trigger the “something is wrong” part of the nervous system and that can signal a stress response (fight or flight). What you perceive as a hassle (stressor) is unique to you and this is true for each of us.

We tend to stay focused on hassles by getting upset and frustrated about them. We talk and think about them. Our language is full of hassle related sayings: “It’s Murphy’s Law”, “Can’t anything go right?” “Mercury is retrograde again?!”, “It never fails!”, “What a pain in the neck” or “Here we go again”.
The energy drain of dealing with negativity, of course, is not a good thing.  And this can happen if too many hassles become the target of your awareness throughout the day. But there is an answer. The brain also has the ability to let you step back, take a breath and decide how you want to respond to a situation. This mindful approach can give you better control of your mood and make you less reactive. You can’t be mindful and reactive at the same time. They are mutually exclusive when it comes to how your brain works.

The bottom line is that we can learn to notice, observe, and be aware of hassles without giving them excessive energy. We can deal with the traffic, too many emails, other people’s behavior and decide how much energy we want to expend being upset. In other words “Don’t feed the monster” with more negativity. Back off, take that deep breath, and talk yourself down to a calmer, more neutral place.

Replace hassle talk with statements like: “I can handle this.” Make peace with the small stuff. It’s always going to be there.  Save your inner reserves for the bigger problems so you are up for the challenge when they happen.

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