How to Stop Sweating the Small Stuff

Three Methods:Changing HabitsFocusing on Your BodyApproaching the Problem

Life can be filled with inconveniences, delays, frustrations and worry – losing your keys, getting stuck in traffic, running late for an appointment are high on the list of things that can stress a person out.[1] Usually, we can deal with these problems and emotions in passing, as just another part of a hectic world. However, sometimes you may find yourself worrying about the little things and sweating the small stuff. Research has shown, though, that even moderate (but chronic) stress over small matters can increase your blood pressure and cholesterol, impair memory and learning, and affect your immune system. Men, in particular, run the risk of premature death if they are chronic worriers. .[2][3] Thus, it is important both physically and psychologically not to worry too much about such minor hassles. Read on for strategies to help you deal with the small stuff.

Method 1
Changing Habits

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    Understand that worry can be helpful. Worry on its own won't solve the problem you are faced with: no amount of worrying about darkening clouds will stop an approaching rainstorm, for example. However, this stressful emotion can lead to positive outcomes if harnessed in a productive way. Over time, sweating the small stuff can be turned into dealing effectively with the small stuff.
    • Worry can focus your attention. Worrying about what an approaching storm will do to the clothes you just hung out to dry won't stop the storm, but if it compels you to bring in the clothes before they blow all over the yard, the worry will have had a positive result.
    • Worry can lead to action. Stressing out about the approaching due date for an essay won't make the essay write itself, but it can lead you to get down to work and finish it in good time.
    • Worry can help you be prepared. On its own, worrying about your old car breaking down won't fix its engine; however, if this leads to a visit to the mechanic for a tune-up, the worry will have been transformed into something more productive.[4]
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    Manage your time. Concentrating on what matters most and working towards a balanced life will help you to deal with common stresses and take more control of each day.
    • Making to-do lists each day helps to put responsibilities in perspective, and can help you to concentrate on the most important tasks. It is a good idea to organize daily responsibilities from most important to least important, and to break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable parts.
    • Focus on quality of work, not quantity. Spending too much time on your work or daily tasks can lead to frustration and even lower productivity. Aim to do something well, rather than several things half-heartedly.
    • Avoid procrastination. Putting off responsibilities only increases stress, so make every attempt to tackle problems in good time.[5][6]
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    Time yourself. If you find yourself stressing out over small matters for an inordinate amount of time, allow yourself five minutes of worry for each problem and time it. This will help you to calm down, focus on the problem, and quickly find a reasonable solution.
    • For example, a computer suddenly freezing in the middle of a project will naturally be stressful - if allowed to fester, such stress could ruin a day. However, set aside exactly five minutes to worry about the computer; before those five minutes are up you will most likely have found the technicians number and taken a positive step toward solving the problem. After five minutes, move on to other work.[7]
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    Speak positively. Our words are intertwined with and affect the parts of our brain that control both the reward system and unhappy, sad and angry thoughts. Speaking positively in an annoying or stressful situation triggers the reward system, and will in fact lead to more positive thinking.
    • For example, if you feel slighted or disrespected by a co-worker who isn't impressed with your work, don't sweat it - instead, tell them you love their new shirt, or comment on the beautiful summer day. Speaking positively in such situations will lead to less stress and more positive thoughts.[8]
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    Learn to forgive. Forgiving small slights and annoyances (as well as larger offences) can diminish their effects, relieve stress and anger, and allow you to focus on the positive aspects of each day.
    • Forgiving can be very difficult, and it will take an active commitment on your part to learn to do so.
    • Thinking about the importance of forgiving and its potential impact on your life, as well as the effects of holding grudges on your well-being, will help to provide perspective and allow you to release pent up stress.[9]
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    Write it down and throw it away. Research has shown that the simple act of writing down negative thoughts on a piece of paper and then throwing the paper away diminishes the hold these thoughts have over a person. When you become annoyed, frustrated or stressed over a small matter, try writing the thought down and disposing of it by throwing it into the wastepaper basket.[10]
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    Keep a gratitude journal. Set aside time every day to write down all of the friends, events and ordinary things that you feel grateful for that day. Often, gratitude must be developed and practiced, and a gratitude journal is the perfect place to start.
    • Research has shown that practicing gratitude (such as keeping a daily journal) has a number of positive effects, including increased optimism and joy, and can make you more compassionate and forgiving.[11][12]

Method 2
Focusing on Your Body

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    Exercise. Physical activity will relieve stress and improve your mood. In fact, a person only needs 30 minutes of exercise a day to feel the psychological and emotional benefits of physical activity.[13]
    • Activities like running, hiking and swimming, as well as playing sports like tennis, cause your brain to release endorphins which will give you a natural “high.” Even small amounts of exercise can improve your mood in this way.
    • Focusing on a single physical activity clears the mind and might be considered a type of meditation.[14]
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    Take a break. Just like exercise, a little relaxation on your own can go a long way. As little as ten minutes a day of uninterrupted alone time can calm your mind and relax the physical stresses that come with frustration and worry.
    • Make sure to put away your phone, tablet, laptop and any other device that might interrupt your relaxation and cause more minor stresses.[15]
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    Focus on your breathing. People who are stressed out take quick, shallow breaths, causing even more stress. Deep breathing from the diaphragm (diaphragmatic breathing) can slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, as well as increase oxygen exchange.
    • Lay down in a quiet room and breath normally. Next, take a slow, deep breath through your nose, filling your chest and abdomen with air. Slowly breath out through your mouth. Repeat this until you feel the stress begin to slip away.
    • Chest breathing has been somewhat normalized in particular cultures because of body image pressures, as people tend to keep their stomachs sucked in. Breathing from the diaphragm is a much more effective way to combat stress.[16]
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    Meditate. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help people deal with stress and anxiety. This type of meditation can teach you to identify intrusive, unproductive thoughts and recognize them for what they are: just thoughts.[17]

Method 3
Approaching the Problem

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    Reason through the situation. When you are stressed, the reasoning section of your brain is muted by the part of the brain that produces emotions. It is thus important to make every effort to reason through everyday inconveniences and problems.
    • Try to approach an everyday problem as a chance to strengthen the reasoning side of your brain. Stress is subjective, and with patience you can improve your ability to reason through small stresses. [18]
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    Reframe the problem. When your emotions are high because of a miscommunication, delay or other problem, try to approach the situation from a different angle to give yourself perspective. Changing up your thinking can calm the emotional centre of the brain.
    • For example, if you take time off work to meet the plumber and they don’t show up, instead of focusing on the inconvenience try to think of it as unexpected downtime that you can use to relax.
    • If you encounter a setback in, or believe you have failed a project, try to think of the things you achieved, rather than those things that remain unfinished. [19][20]
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    Solve the problem. While you probably can’t fix a traffic jam, other minor problems and stresses can be dealt with more easily and effectively. When you rip your favorite jeans, lose your keys, or might run late for an appointment, immediately ask yourself, “How can I solve this problem?”
    • By focusing on finding an answer you will engage the reasoning side of your brain, which will help to dampen down the emotional side, and thus dissipate your stress.[21]


  • Stressing over the small stuff leads to increased heart activity, higher blood pressure levels, and many more chemical imbalances in your body. This will only compound the existing problem at hand.
  • Writing down your daily stresses in a notebook will help you to clearly identify the small annoyances that are bothering you, and help you to put them into perspective.


  • Ignoring a problem cannot make it go away, but many people try this anyway. In fact, the problem will probably not go away, and sometimes will even get worse.

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