When we think about stress or adversity, we tend to think about the big things: getting a new job, moving, serious illness, getting married. Psychologists have studied the toll these major life-events have on our health for years. However, the impact of life’s daily hassles on our mood, well-being and hustle is less understood.
Hassles happen every day and sometimes many times in a day: the jerk cutting us in line, getting to the bus just as it pulls away, spilling coffee on our shirt just before a meeting starts, losing those car keys for the sixth time this week.
These hassles are why we need to practice active resilience.
Here are a few tips to activate your resilience so you can focus on the hustle not the hassle.
- Notice and Name. When a hassle occurs, most of us become our emotions. I miss my bus and feel frustrated so I become frustrated. I become irritable, blame the bus driver for being inconsiderate and then hold on to this feeling for a number of hours. In this way, our feelings hold us hostage and impact our behavior. One way to manage our emotional captivity is to notice and name our emotional state. Instead of saying, “I am angry,” say instead, “I notice anger.” There is a big difference between these two statements. In the first, you become the emotion. In the second, you observe the emotion as an experience passing like a cloud.
- Fuel not Flood. Hassles have a tendency of sapping our hustles. Most of them make us feel out of control, overwhelmed and drained, derailing our equilibrium and productivity in the process. But goal setting can re-energize us. In fact, psychologists say that getting mentally energized to achieve a goal creates physiological changes in energy. One particular way to achieve this boost is to get our WOOP on. WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. To get your WOOP on, identify a wish, an aspiration or goal you really want to accomplish. Next, imagine the way you will think or feel when you achieve your wish or outcome. The obstacle is how you might self-sabotage or prevent yourself achieving your wish. The 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, remember our wish and use the energy to drive us forward.
- Hassle Detox. Hassles build up in the psyche like sediment in a river. One way to detox is to work on gratitude and gratefulness. According to many 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 and modern technology makes it much easier. There are multiple free and inexpensive apps available for this exact purpose. If you’d rather practice gratefulness untethered, why not try a gratitude walk? Pick a route and spend five minutes noticing things you’re grateful for. Walk slowly and let your eyes rest on various objects, 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 – that overeager bus 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 your face and a spring to your step. Uplifts are all around us. Despite the fact that we experience five to six uplifts per day, our hassles evoke a much stronger physiological and emotional response. Neuro-scientist Jill-Bolte Taylor is right when she observes that while physiological lifespan of an emotion is 90-seconds, we often find ourselves clinging to feelings of anger, frustration, shame or guilt for much longer. When was the last time a negative emotion you experienced lasted only a minute and a half? To take full advantage of your uplifts and minimize the impact of hassles today.
- Breathe, Restore & Sustain: An uplift is like coming up for air. It’s a refreshing, invigorating experience. Breathing out is the body’s natural relaxant and focusing on a breath can sustain the pleasurable feelings that accompany an uplift. 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. An 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 will experience more psychological thermals.
- Engage. Uplifts remind us we are not one of life’s passengers. In the midst of an uplift we feel alive and fully present. This is because 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? Experience five different sensations: What do you feel? You can do a “3 by 5” exercise between meetings, on your walk to work or over lunch. There is no right or wrong time to fully engage.
Hassles are inevitable. Some are the byproduct of daily living and some we inflict on ourselves. Whatever the cause activating your resilience by noticing and naming, riding a thermal or getting your WOOP on will ensure you spend time on the hustle, not colliding with the hassle.