2024 May 28 Calmly avoid life's annoyances

May 28, 2024

Thanks for joining me tonight to talk about how to deal with difficult situations.Let me preface this by saying that I'm not a chill person at all. I always laugh inside when people say I'm so calm and patient, because I assure you, that's a learned skill. Left to my own devices, I would, in most situations, tend to say a bunch of things that I really meant. I may still briefly think those thoughts, but I realized two things a number of years ago. Escalating a situation for no useful purpose, rarely helps the situation, but it can make it dramatically worse.


Also, stepping back and looking at the good side, or at least trying to understand why something is bothering you or what you might do to de-escalate things, usually produces a lot better results. I chuckled when I was reading an article on how to cope with travel chaos while flying. This was a busy weekend, Memorial Day weekend. This was in the personal section of the Wall Street Journal. How to Cope with Tribal Chaos: Be a Zen Master


It was an interesting article on many levels. First off, this is really  a quintessential, first world problem, not having sufficiently pleasant surroundings as you whisk off hundreds or even thousands of miles away, quite likely for a vacation. Even if it's for work, they're probably playing you pretty well if they're flying you somewhere. The 'horrific trauma' that was first being described was that a child in the seat in front of the person writing the story was playing with a distracting toy while they were waiting for departure.


For context, the story was actually about the travel editor traveling with someone who teaches yoga. They were there to coach the editor on how to reframe stressful situations. That was the context of the article. However, my favorite line, which sums up all the things we often talk about here, is that the coach looked across the aisle, saw the other person, and seeing how they were getting wound up, he leaned over and said,  What are you glad about? 


And there you have it. A very simple way to totally reframe what could be a potentially stressful situation into something that puts things totally into perspective.  What are you glad about?  They could be glad that they were on a flight to Florida. They could be glad they got to write interesting human interest stories and they're traveling with an aspiring person. The list of good things, of reasons to be glad,  is about as long as a list of things they could be annoyed at.  The coach is Ross Rayburn. He's the lead instructor for yoga and meditation at Peloton.  


He goes on to talk about how a surefire way to change the situation is to help someone else who's struggling in some way. 


In this case, at the airport, he suggested helping somebody with the luggage or explaining where the gates are, or doing anything to take the focus off of yourself and into the world and the lives of those around you.  We talk almost every week about how focusing outside of you changes your perspective on the entire world. 


Ross then goes on to say,  Take a deep breath.  Personally, I tend not to actually take that breath. It might be better if I did, but I don't. But I do always mentally step back and have a quick talking-to with my inner self.  I ask myself, What could I do to change the dynamic of this situation? I really do. I actually pause for a second, and it's just to put a break in there. Because somebody says something, they do something, and you're all set to react. If you just break the chain right there, so it's not just a reaction, but a conscious, thought-out string of actions instead of a reaction, it totally changes the whole dynamic.


He and I both actually then take the same next step, which is to decide what is the best next step to take.  As Mr.Rayburn says, strategizing is better than panicking. And I would add, or responding without a productive purpose. It's better to say nothing for a second, and then actually form a real response.  It was a pretty interesting article, and although it was framed around air travel, it really applies to essentially every situation and interaction every day of our lives. At the end of the article they do close with the same sentiment.


He says, That's not just travel, that's life.  And that's really true. Every day we have the choice to make. Whenever anything happens, we get to choose how we react to it. Sometimes the choices are very dramatic, but most of the time, they really aren't. We just turn it into drama.


Sometimes it's harder to reframe things, but if you try and make your default reaction be one that solves the situation or problem instead of counteracting, counterattacking, and reacting, you may find that a lot of the many potentially annoying situations will dissolve. They may even end pretty well.


I realize that's not always easy, but it's too easy to forget that being angry takes a big toll on you as well.  When we get angry, the thoughts often stay with us far after the situation ends. It wears us down. It releases all sorts of fight or flight chemicals into your body and hormones. You get all wound up, your heart rate goes up, all these things, and it wears down our body. It wears on our mind and it just distracts us from life. When we can stay calm, we generally recover much more quickly. Then we can refocus on the things that are really important.  


It's often far more productive and better for us, both physically and mentally, to try and reframe and defuse situations rather than let them escalate into big disruptions. Yes, being calm takes effort, but being angry, even silently angry, takes even more effort—and harms us in many different ways.  Focusing on that which is truly important is both easier and better overall. 


So that's it for the evening. Your homework (always optional) is to think about the last time a situation really annoyed you, and try to remember how long it bothered you. Were you thinking about it for minutes, hours, even days later? Was it really that significant? Extra points if you think about how you may have reframed it in a more positive way, perhaps by quietly addressing it or by trying to change the situation in some way so the whole situation became irrelevant. Maybe something as simple as smiling at the child or offering to help somebody holding up a line.  Try to think how much better you might have felt.  


As always, please remember the war in Ukraine, the war in Israel and Palestine. There are lots of things going on in the world. There are a lot of people who need a lot of help. The World Central Kitchen is at WCK.org. There are links to ways to support Ukraine at UKR7.com


We talk about making some donations, if you want to make donations locally. Even if you choose not to donate, something as simple as smiling at somebody on the street, just giving them a kind word, complimenting somebody—that alone can make a world of difference to somebody. It's simple. It's easy to do


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along. If not, please shoot me a note, tell me what you'd like to hear, and we'll talk about it. Hit that like button if you can. As always, have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dream of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you. 

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