10 Ways to Stop Sweating the Small Stuff and Move Forward

When we can address stress in the moment, we can move on instead of dwelling on the issue.

Luis Alvarez/ Getty Images
Luis Alvarez/ Getty Images

We all encounter small daily stressors and challenges that can make us feel frustrated or anxious. There’s power in acknowledging the causes of our stress before it becomes cumulative or overwhelming — and it’s also important to arm ourselves with tools and strategies to help us address stress in the moment so that we can move forward instead of dwelling on the issue.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the small ways they move on from their stressors and stop sweating the small stuff. Which of these tips will you try?

Take a long-term view 

“I ask myself what impact the thing I am stressing over will have in the long term. Will I still care in five hours, five days or five months? In most circumstances, it’s something that won’t cause stress beyond a day or two, so I tell myself that the impact is minimal and I try to let it go. It’s not easy, but adding the lens of time often helps me to put things in perspective. It helps me realize that most things aren’t worth stressing over.”

—Marta Rzeszowska Chavent, management and change consultant, France

Shift your language

“I learned from several coaches and friends to reframe my thoughts from ‘I have to’ to ‘I get to.’ This simple mindset shift helps me think differently about situations that are inducing stress or nervousness.

—Donna Peters, executive coach and MBA Faculty, Atlanta, GA

Go for a walk to think it over

“I think getting up, leaving your home, and going for a quiet walk goes a long way for both grabbing a breather and avoiding letting stressors get to you. I use the walk to think about what’s going on and figure out a strategy for how I will handle this challenge. These walks also allow me to gain a bit of perspective about the situation. By the time I come home from the walk, I feel confident that I can handle the stressor and that in the short and long term this particular stressor does not signify the end of the world.”

—Heather Taylor, communications coordinator, Calabasas, CA

Remind yourself to accept what you can’t change

“I try to accept what I cannot change. I’ve always enjoyed this quote by the great philosopher Epictetus who said, ‘Don’t seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and all will be well with you.’ Life is unpredictable, so to find peace, it’s essential to embrace all moments without judgment. Peace comes from knowing that unpleasant events are transitory and will pass, just like the natural cycles of day and night.”

—James Petrossi, president of PTNL, Austin, TX

Reverse your self-talk

“At this stage in my life and career, nothing surprises me and most importantly, nothing scares me. I am confident in my ability to cope. I have seen these movies before and know that in the end, everything works out just great. Worry (a top stressor) is a made-up story that definitely causes you to enter a world of stress. However, realistically, the event hasn’t happened yet. What you do is make up a story, believe it and then it becomes your truth. What do I do? I tell myself a different story. It works every time.”

—Chere Estrin, CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, Los Angeles, CA 

Look at something that puts things in perspective

“I was given the gift of a ‘present clock’ by a dear friend. It makes a full revolution in 24 hours and is your reminder to stop stressing, get grounded, and stay in the present. It’s mounted in a place in my house where I can see it from most angles any time I need the reminder. Every time I look at it, a little click goes off in my head to let go of whatever stress I’m dealing with, and I’m reminded of my lovely friend who put so much thought into this gift.”

—Sonia Hunt, author and marketing executive, San Francisco, CA

Think about tomorrow

“I was raised to believe that when you are 15 minutes early, you are actually on time. Although I’ve carried this belief with me into my work habits, it has also caused me stress, worrying about being late, planning out the entire day around one activity, and limiting my time to prioritize others’ needs. But what I’ve learned as a business owner is the phrase, ‘Tomorrow is still going to come.’ Tomorrow is going to show up whether we’re ready or not. We cannot control the fact that we are continuously in motion. This phrase has been my mantra for when the stress starts to feel overwhelming.”

—Laura Collins, launch curator, Denver, CO

Create 80/20 buckets

“I stop and take a moment to do a five or ten-minute breathing exercise to center myself. Then, I take the thought captive and create 80/20 buckets. I ask myself if what I am anxious about went wrong, will I still be fine? If the answer is yes, then I would place that thought into the 80% bucket. If there is a risk involved, then I would place that thought in the 20% bucket and address the issue from a place of calm and clear-headedness after my breathing exercises.”

—Karla J Noland, personal development coach, Durham, N.C.

Put things in context

“What helps me stop stressing and put things in perspective is remembering that we are spiritual beings having a human experience — the stuff we are dealing with is not usually important and it likely won’t matter in the next dimension or plane of existence.”

—Courtney Daniels, filmmaker, Sherman Oaks, CA

Identify one thing you can control 

“One way I’ve been able to lessen trivial stress in my life is to focus on the present moment and what I can control in the present moment. As a chronic overthinker, I tend to get wrapped up in the little thoughts and stresses. But, when I refocus my mind and actively think about what I do have power over, it helps me to ground myself and feel less overwhelmed by what is not in my power to change.” 

—Marisa Donnelly, writer, editor, coach, San Diego, CA

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