To an extent, we have control over the things that bother us. That is, we can exaggerate an event’s importance. We can ruminate about it, for hours or days. We can let ourselves get so angry we can’t even see straight. We can set zero boundaries, letting all kinds of potential stressors enter our lives.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
Or we can shift the focus. We can pay attention to what’s important to us, our values and priorities. We can stop assigning something so small so much space in our minds. We can stop labeling tiny things as distressful.
Yesterday, in this post, I suggested creating a list of things that are important enough for us to focus on; and the things that really just aren’t. Here’s one question I asked to help us decide: “Is it truly, truly worth my time, attention and energy?” Because these resources are limited. And we feel healthier and happier when we spend them wisely.
Today, I’m sharing a list of other questions we can ask ourselves. I love posing questions, because they help us become more thoughtful and deliberate about our decisions. The right questions can help us make surprising, valuable discoveries.
- Am I making this into a much bigger deal than it actually is?
- Am I turning this into a battle, a gaping wound, a “holy crap!” catastrophe when it’s really just a bump, a bruise or a “bummer”?
- Is what I’m currently ruminating about taking the focus away from something more important?
- Is thinking about this situation serving me?
- Is this part of something I value or view as important? If so, why?
- Would I suggest my friend hyper-focus on this?
- How do I define stress?
- Can I get more specific?
- What do I stress out about regularly?
- What do I stress out about that — when I really think about it — just isn’t worth my time?
- What are the things I want to pay full attention to?
- What warrants my attention?
- Am I letting inconsequential things make me question my worth? (If you are, and they cut deeply, then it’s something to explore; keep digging to figure out why you’re so distressed, and what you can do.)
- Is focusing on this helpful?
- Is focusing on this teaching me something valuable?
- Is this something I can solve?
- Is paying attention to this (or focusing my time and energy on this) making me or my life better?
To me asking these kinds of questions is another way of creating a meaningful and fulfilling life. It’s another way to thoughtfully reflect on how we’re spending our days; to make sure we aren’t letting inconsequential things consume our attention (and take our finite attention away from more important things).
Sometimes, they will. Sometimes, before we realize it, we turn these insignificant things into big (but still insignificant) things. Because we’re human. And because we forget. So that’s when we pause and check in with ourselves. That’s when we remind ourselves of what matters.