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5 Mindset Shifts to Help You Stop Taking Life So Seriously

Hello loves!

Sorry I'm a few days late with this week's post! I've been a little under the weather (curse you pollen) and just wasn't sure what to write about this week. Ironically, it's because of my not feeling well that I realized what the topic of this week (and next week becuase I'm splitting this up) should be: Stop Taking Life So Seriously.

In other words, not over-stressing about every little thing and spending the entire short time we have on this floating rock panicking.

This is something that I think everyone (myself included) needs to be reminded of every now and then. Far too often, I think we all can get caught up in our own day-to-day lives to the point where every little thing that doesn't go our way is somehow an earth-shattering catastrophe. As someone who struggles with anxiety and perfectionism issues-- the perfect storm tbh-- I know how easy it is to get stuck in a small-picture mindset, to the point where it's ridiculous.

Ridiculous as in feeling guilty for calling out of work when you're legitimately not feeling well. Or getting borderline heart palpitations because heaven forbid you're three minutes late to something. Or assuming you'll be fired for not answering an e-mail right after receiving it.

And okay, yeah, staying on schedule or responding to people in a timely manner aren't bad things. Being overly late is rude and can be inconvenient for others, and obviously people have utilized sick days for when they aren't actually sick (don't do that). But when life happens or when you make a mistake-- intentional or not-- it's really okay.

So, mindset shift number one is Keep Things in Perspective.

This is probably the most important one, and it's a mindset shift I actively have to strive to have. Keeping things in perspective is easier said than done, absolutely. But it also let's you fulfill the other four shifts I'm going to mention throughout this series.

So how to keep things in perspective. What this looks like is taking the current cause of your stress and actually weighing if this is something worth being stressed about.

For example, you're running late for after-school pick-up. You're in the car, your road rage is boiling because you're in a hurry, and when you finally reach the parking lot, you're snappy and have left literal indents from how tightly you were gripping the steering wheel. It's just not a fun situation for anyone.

Instead of letting the stress build, ask yourself what's the worst case scenario that comes with me being late? Whoever you're picking up is going to be worried-- send them a text. Is there a late fee? Maybe, but it's rare those things are expensive, especially if it's only a few minutes late. Everyone will be mad at you? Doubtful. At worst, you might have to make an embarrased apology but no one will really care (unless this is a regular occurence in which case, this is something way different).

At the end of the day, is the unforseen bump in the road or honest-to-goodness mistake actually something to get worked up about? Will anyone die from your actions? Are you setting off the last trumpet before the apocalypse?

Highly unlikely.

And yet, people let these tiny little inconviences work them up into a frenzy. Whether it's overreacting at others or yourself, people nowadays seem to love escalating something small into a chicken little 'the sky is falling' debacle.

I get it. Life is frusturating af, people even more so. It's not fun when your plans go awry, or when you tried your best but something bad happened instead. But that frusturation or embarrasment shouldn't cause the extreme reactions I'm sure we've all been noticing from those around us and in ourselves. Which is why mindset shift number two is Shut Down that Fight or Flight.

Full disclosure, I am someone that has anxiety. I've suffered panic attacks. And I know for a fact that I am not alone in this because, unfortunately, anxiety is massively on the rise. This isn't just a generational thing, either, there's been increased reports of stress and anxiety across all ages. Regardless of what you think the cause of this is, there's no denying it's happening. And a simple 'turn off that dang phone and exercise' isn't going to fix all of the problems.

Part of what happens when you experience anxiety, especially when it escalates into panic attacks, is that your brain is viewing whatever struggle or stressor you're facing as a capital S Stressor. Like a bear charging into your family's cave or watching the distant volcanoe near your home suddenly errupt. Now that type of stuff, the life or death stuff, that's a Stressor that our brains easily register as a reason to activate fight or flight.

(Side note: there are actually multiple acute stress responses that include fight, flight, fawn, or freeze. It can be helpful to know them all as a way to recognize when they're happening, speaking as someone who Freezes a lot)

Now, our stress responses can be really helpful. They keep us safe when we are in unsafe situations. It's why people have been known to fight back against attacking crocidiles, speedily out-run dangerous assailants, remain perfectly still in delicate situations, or smoothly diffuse angry enemies through fawning. No stress response is better than the other, by the way, they all have worked effectively throughout centuries to keep humans safe.

Now that said, there is absolutely no stinkin reason in the entire world that we should ever react to a mildly inconvient situation with the exact same type of stress response that we would use in a literal war-scene environment. And yet, that's exactly what Anxiety is.

Anxiety is when our minds begin to look at situations that really aren't all that serious, and automatically go into fight or flight mode. It's why you can have two people in the same scenario, one with anxiety and one without, and see two completely different responses.

To use an example from my own life, let's journey to my own personal he11 that is the airport. I hate airports with a burning passion that could rival the literal fires of Mordor. Good LORD they are the worst for people with anxiety. The last time I was there with my family, I don't think I was able to relax for a single second. I went from panicking about going through TSA (the classic 'what if I accidentally packed a weapon into my suitcase even though the deadliest thing I brought was expired mints') to panicking about missing our flight (we ended up waiting to board for an hour) to stressing that this was a Final Destination type of plane, to then finally landing and stressing that our luggage got lost.

Holy wow, I am tired just recapping that. And you can believe that after being in a state of fight or flight for literal hours that I was exhausted by the end of the trip.

Now flash to my parents. They went through TSA without a second thought, not overthinking the literally impossible chance of magically carrying something on them without their knowledge. When I was freaking out about missing our flight, they knew that we'd make it. And even if we didn't, they knew that everything would be alright-- we still had all our passports, credit cards, and phones, so we wouldn't be stranded in the middle of nowhere. Missing luggage, irritating as that can be, also is something that can be solved or at least recouped. As to the plane deciding to just nope out of its job, well my parents knew there wasn't really a point in over-stressing about something that they couldn't control one way or the other.

Very different responses, one from viewing most problems in a fight or flight lense, with the other viewing things as problems that can stink, but at the end of the day, aren't that important.

Now I'm not saying this to make light of anxiety. It's a real mental illness, it sucks, and it ranges in severity. It's fine to be anxious about big things, that's what our nervous system is for after all, but when everything becomes a big thing, that's where the problems start to come in.

So what do we do? What do I mean by shut down the response?

Well first, change how you view problems. Try to keep the perspective, that in the grand scheme of things, most of our 'stresses' really don't matter. The mistakes we've made that keep us up at night, most people don't remember them. And if someone does or your mistake wasn't a small embarassing accident but something bigger, than take accountability. Don't stay up stressing and panicking about the 'what ifs.'

To reduce automatically launching into a fear response at every problem, make some changes in how your inner voice talks to you. Don't let the thoughts spiral to the point of catastrophizing about something that literally hasn't or won't ever happen. Maybe consider

"We talk it through as a crew"

 talking to a licensed professional about your anxiety or stressors (or anything because, and I can not say this enough, therapy and talking through your problems is good for everyone!!!) For some with really severe anxiety, talk to your doctor about better ways to manage the stress levels, whether it's through medicine or a different diet or whatever.

But most importantly of all, give yourself grace.

I'll go into this more on the next post, but a quick preview of it is simply just allowing yourself to be a human. Humans make mistakes. That's literally the one thing we all have in common, all the way back to Adam and Eve.

And it's okay. One mistake doesn't mean your life is over, nor should one mistake hang over your head forever. Part of life is learning, and that means you're going to fail sometimes. Good. Failure is a way to grow, to change and adapt.

That's something to be proud of, to be excited about, not something to be ashamed or scared of.

So to anyone who feels stressed out all the time or is afraid to really live an authentic life because they don't want to make a mistake, take a deep breath. Tell yourself it's all going to be alright. Look at the bigness of the world and universe around you and relax knowing it doesn't all hang on your shoulders.

Love y'all!

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?" --Luke 12:25

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