Posted by Adam Blanch on 05 December 2013
We’ve all been told we need to let go and not sweat the small stuff, but that’s not as easy to do as it sounds. The question is, why do we constantly worry over things that mostly never happen?
The problem seems to be that we are wired as human animals for ‘threat attention’ – the tendency to give more attention to threats than to ordinary information. Deep in our reptilian brain – the oldest evolutionary part of us – there are guards on duty. We call it our ‘instincts’, and it almost never goes to sleep, even though some try to silence it with alcohol, drugs and a host of other addictions. The harder we try to let it go, the harder it works to get our attention.
The key to letting go is actually in learning how to take up the information that our reptilian brain is delivering to us. Our inner guard isn’t trying to stress us out. It’s attempting to give us information about the threats and opportunities in our life. The better we are at paying attention to it, and intelligently processing the information, the less stress we experience.
Here are some ideas on how to clear the decks.
1. Get real
Start asking questions. “What is my brain trying to warn me about?” “How real is the threat?” “How likely is it to happen?” “What would I do if it did?” “How can I prevent it ahead of time?” “Does it require any response?” “Am I overreacting because of something in my past?” Once your brain has had a good look, it can start to relax.
2. Know thyself
Many people do not recognise just how strong, adaptable, capable and courageous they can be. Therefore, when threats do occur they believe that they cannot successfully deal with them, which is a recipe for stress. Take a good look back at all the things you have survived and overcome and give yourself a psychological pat on the back. Now look forward with the awareness of how strong you really are and things won’t be so scary.
3. Worry time
One of the best strategies for letting go is to give yourself a specific period of time once a day or once a week to have a good look at all your problems. When you let your ‘guard’ know that you are paying attention to their warnings, they don’t need to keep bothering you.
4. Get some perspective
Our brains can tend to enlarge threats in order to get our attention. Try picturing the situation as if it were very small, and you were a giant looking at it from far above.
5. Turn your fight into flight
Life without challenges would be boring. If you look at your problems as opportunities to grow, learn, discover and increase your abilities then they become the gateway to an exciting and fulfilling life. Now soar.
Okay, it’s not really all small stuff – sometimes you do have real problems to deal with. But by learning to deal with the small stuff, you can bring the bigger stuff down to size.
What are your secrets to 'letting go' of your first world problems?