It’s all too easy to let someone else’s actions ruin your day – but you’re the only one who will suffer by holding on to anger. Cathryn Scott has some advice…
It’s all too easy to let someone else’s actions ruin your day – but you’re the only one who will suffer by holding on to anger. Cathryn Scott has some advice on how to let go
Your radio alarm wakes you up with a song you hate. You make a cup of tea and find someone has left only the empty carton of milk in the fridge. On the bus to work the person next to you keeps elbowing you as they turn the pages of their newspaper. At your office, you notice your hole punch with your name clearly labelled on it on someone else’s desk. Then, when your colleague – who is known for being lazy – asks you to attend a meeting on their behalf it’s the last straw and your whole body feels like exploding.
Sometimes it seems that the world is out to get us. Whether it is your partner continually leaving the loo seat up despite you asking him a million times not to, or a not-very-helpful call centre worker who just can’t seem to help, it’s all too easy for someone else’s actions to spoil your mood and your day.
Deep down, we know these issues are not worth stressing ourselves over, but keeping cool and calm is easier said than done. Fortunately there are simple steps we can take to change our behaviour.
“I always used to let little things wind me up beyond belief,” says Cathy Winston, a writer from London. “People with no manners; cars running red lights as I’m trying to cross the road. I would spend ages fretting, seething and trying to think up cutting and witty retorts.”
But then, a year or so ago, it dawned on Cathy that this was achieving nothing. “Long after the initial encounter, the other person was probably blissfully on their way, if they’d even been aware of my irritation, and I was still working on an early ulcer,” she says. “I just realised how pointless it was; that the only effect it was having was ruining my own day.”
This realisation helped her to change her reactions. “I wouldn’t say I’ve completely stopped it, but I’m better at giving myself a stern talking to if I find myself dwelling on frustrating situations,” she says. “Someone told me a quote: ‘Hating someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ “Although hate is a bit strong for this kind of situation, it’s a similar effect.”
Lesley Harrison, a computer consultant from Newcastle, admits getting easily annoyed by people. Her way of coping is to write a ranting email or internet forum post about whatever has upset her. “I always re-read things before sending them, and usually the rant I’ve written makes me sound like a horrible, ignorant, insecure person,” she says. “So I’ll edit what I’ve written to sound a bit more moderate. Then when I re-read it, it sounds like what I’m complaining about really isn’t that bad after all, so I decide not to send it.
“If I’m still genuinely bugged by whatever it was, I’ll send or submit it, and usually get good advice from my email buddies or forum friends.”
She says the process calms her down. “I haven’t managed to re-programme myself to not get annoyed in the first place, but at least it means I can get on with things and not end up fuming all day over something that’s beyond my control.”
Both have found their own coping mechanisms, but if you’re struggling the first step according to life coach Joanne Mallon (medialifecoach.com), is to take responsibility for your own behaviour instead of blaming someone else for winding you up. “If someone pushes your buttons, they can only do so if you have those buttons in the first place,” she says. “So your reactions to other people are ultimately about you, not them.
“What I do is take a step back from anything that’s causing a reaction in me and think about where this is coming from within me; what am I really angry about? Usually it’s about feeling frustrated and powerless over some other area of life. Then I think about what I can do to address the root cause, and hopefully end up with some kind of concrete action I can take to improve that.”
Eve Menezes Cunningham of Apple Coaching has a range of coping techniques. She suggests taking time after an encounter to meditate or reflect, to release whatever it is that’s allowing the annoyance to get to you. A no-holds-barred private journal entry can help get to the root of what’s bugging you.
She also suggests putting yourself in The Annoyer’s place. “This will give you a new perspective on where they might be coming from – the old ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’.” For example, you may be annoyed at the person in your evening class who alwaysasks pointless questions – but if you knew that deep down they were incredibly insecure, were caring for a terminally ill family member and goingthrough a painful divorce, would that change the way you responded to them?
Controlling her reactions is something Danielle Nicholls (daniellenicholls.co.uk), a yoga teacher from Cardiff, has learned through yoga. She regularly practises metta meditation, repeating a mantra wishing happiness to others.
Yoga teaches compassion, she explains. “The true meaning is believing that everyone else has a right to be happy, as well as you. In a workplace where everyone is caught up in themselves it is easy to feel you are being attacked. Compassion is about changing your viewpoint. If someone is getting on your nerves or giving you a hard time, try to have the state of mind to think they deserve to be happy too. If somebody makes us angry, they are not feeling that. They are not suffering. It all happens in your world. You have got to address it, as otherwise it is self-harming.”
However, she acknowledges there’s a thin line between compassion and being walked over by other people.
“That’s why I have faith that the universe supports me,” says Danielle. “And that’s where yoga and meditation come in. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, but it is a deep-rooted belief. I always feel I have a contentment that everything sorts itself out. If somebody was mistreating me, what goes around comes around. The worst thing to do is to react to it, because it will upset me and it will upset them. I have a great faith thatgood will come through in the end.”
Find a quiet place, sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and deepen your breath. Repeat this simple mantra:
“May I be safe from inner and outer harm.
May I be happy and peaceful of heart.
May my body be healthy and strong.
May my life be filled with ease.”
Then pause, before repeating the mantra again, this time replacing ‘I’ with ‘you’ and thinking of a specific person, a group of people or everyone in the world.
By Max Chadwick of Integral Coaching (integral-lifecoaching.com)
1. Take a reality check
Ask yourself what is really going on. Why are you annoyed that another driver cut you up? Is it because it means they haven’t got any respect for you? If so, why does that matter? Could it be because your father, for example, never had any respect for you? Often it is not the incident itself that upsets you, but something underlying. Get to the bottom of it.
2. Give up the need to be right
As human beings we need to be right. Ask yourself: “What if I wasn’t right about this? What if that motorist didn’t want to cut me up?” How does that make things look? Ask yourself whether you want to be right or whether you want to be happy. Sometimes through wanting to be right, we become resentful. Are you going to suffer just so you can be right?
3. Drop those rocks!
Imagine all your stresses from the day as a heavy bag of rocks that you are carrying on your back. Now take a deep breath, release your shoulders back and see them fall. It is like a weight has been lifted.
4. Think about where you ‘cash in’ your anger
The Greenshield Stamps theory comes from Transactional Analysis. You have a row with your partner in the morning – collect three stamps. The newsagent short-changes you – collect two stamps. You forgot your keys – collect one stamp. Someone pushes in front of you in a queue and you go off on one and cash it in on the wrong person. We tend to cash in on the people we know will take it. To avoid getting to this place, we need to go back to the reality check, work out why things are bothering us and deal with it.
Try this visualisation from NLP practitioner Guilda Akopians to help pull yourself out of any situation you feel you may react to
Find a quiet corner for 15 minutes. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. With every breath in, imagine you are taking more control of your mind and with every breath out, you are letting go of all expectations, anxieties, negative thoughts and disappointments you may have experienced. As your body starts to relax, your mind relaxes. You see yourself sitting by the banks of a long river, hearing the sounds of a waterfall in the distance. You breathe in the smell of the fresh air surrounding you as the breeze brushes against your face and hair. You know that nothing else matters at this moment. You know you are in full control of your body, mind and thoughts. Spend a few moments watching the water run down the stream. As you start to feel more calm and peaceful, you come back into the room, slowly opening your eyes, feeling refreshed and energised, ready to deal with any situation with a clearer mind, in a calmer and more peaceful way.
Guilda Akopians is an NLP practitioner and life coach who specialises in offering one-to-one coaching, weekend retreats and meditation. For more information call 01234 211 281 or visit visionslifecoach.webs.com
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