There are so many things that can make us feel upset, from big heartaches and problems at work to things as small as a rude comment or getting cut off in traffic.
Unfortunately, unless you want to move to a remote island where you’re the only inhabitant (which I admit sometimes sounds appealing), you can’t avoid these things.
But what you can do is stop being upset about them.
Just a few years ago, I used to spend so much time being upset. Really, I was the worst at how to stop being upset over even the smallest things.
I’m still human, and things still upset me, but now I let them go quickly and move on with my life and let me tell you, it’s one of the most freeing feelings. If I can do it, you can too. Heres how:
1. Situation Separation
Before I worked on how to stop being upset, I would let the negative emotions take over.
When I was upset because of a person, I would dump my emotions on them. When I was upset at a situation or thing, I would breakdown in tears or frustration.
And you know what? All it did was make me feel more upset.
When we’re upset, we say and do things we don’t mean. I got tired of chasing my negative feelings with regret and falling into a never-ending loop of being upset, so I started separating myself from situations.
Now, whenever I’m upset, I take a step away. Sometimes just for a few minutes, and sometimes, I have to walk away for a whole day.
Regardless of how much space I take, the result is always that I feel less upset when I remove myself from the situation, and when I come back to the person or situation, I can deal with it the right way.
Just remember that while it’s so helpful to separate yourself from a situation that makes you upset, it’s not okay to never come back to it.
Emotion suppression has all kinds of negative health implications, like disrupting the normal balance of the stress hormone cortisol and leading to a higher risk of premature death.
So take a step away, practice some of the tips below, and come back to the situation when you’re ready.
2. Flip Your Perspective
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.” – Oprah Winfrey
When we’re upset, we tend to take on the role of the victim, thinking, “why is this happening to me?” But that makes us feel worse about ourselves as if there’s something innately wrong with us or it’s our fault something upsetting is happening.
It’s a lot easier to stop being upset if you flip your perspective and instead think, “what is this trying to teach me?” It might sound silly, but it makes a huge difference.
We can learn from everything in life – whether its a breakup, hurtful words, financial problems, it can all teach us something. So next time you’re upset, think about what you can learn from the situation and focus on the lesson, instead of the problem.
Another way to flip your perspective is to think of something positive. Either visualize a positive outcome to whatever is upsetting you or switch your focus to a thought that makes you happy.
Visualizing a positive image or result, whether it’s related to your worries or not, can lead to increased happiness, restfulness, and decreased anxiety.
You can also flip your perspective by practicing gratitude, both in your everyday life and by thinking of three things that you’re grateful for when you feel upset. Plus, gratitude enhances all aspects of your life, leading to greater physical and emotional well-being.
I think we can learn a lot from kids; they’re honest, unapologetically themselves, curious, imaginative, and no matter how hard they fall, they always want to keep playing.
Let’s focus on that last one for a second. When we’re kids, we play all the time, but as we grow into the restraints of adulthood that happens less and less often, and sometimes not at all.
But even as adults, playing can help reduce stress and contribute to overall well-being, which makes it a lot easier to handle upsetting situations. Some researchers believe that play is just as essential to our well being as sleep.
As an adult playing doesn’t have to be a game of tag or diving into a ball pit (even though it can), but it’s anything that engages us enough to takes us away from a feeling of a certain time and place, making it a great remedy for being upset.
You can play by painting, playing a sport, reading, going for a hike, playing an instrument, dancing…the options are endless. Next time you’re upset, pick your favorite way to play and ease your negative feelings away with some fun.
When we feel upset, our minds and bodies are impacted by stress, and we all know how much stress sucks.
Stress can harm our musculoskeletal system, respiratory system, cardiovascular health, endocrine system, immune health, gastrointestinal function, nervous system, reproduction systems, and more.
And while it can be expected that long-term or major stresses are what hurts us, even minor stress can have long term health implications.
Luckily there are as many ways to de-stress as there are things that can make us feel upset, and finding the ones that work best for you can make you a lot better at not being upset.
Here are some ways to de-stress, both in the moment when you start feeling upset and in general, to enhance your ability to deal with stressful situations without getting upset:
Take a deep breath; in through your nose, hold, and release through your mouth
Spend time in nature; this has way more benefits than you might think
Use stress relieving essential oils like lavender
Write out your emotions
Create a happy place and go there; whether it’s in your mind, your favorite coffee shop, or just a corner in your home
Move your body; movement reduces the chances of death, depression, cancer and more, and it even changed these people’s lives
Take some plant medicine; whether it’s a cup of St. John’s Wort tea or a bit of CBD
Listen to music
Find some inspiration; read someone’s story of getting through upsetting times or listen to a podcast or a TedTalk
Pick a mantra and use it, this reduces rumination (the act of dwelling on negative emotions)
5. Let it Go
Sometimes we hold onto things that upset us, from holding grudges against others to letting one thing ruin our whole day or even week, it can feel almost impossible to let things go when we’re feeling upset.
And sometimes it even feels like we have no other choice but to hold on; maybe someone doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, or a situation is just plain unfair.
Growing up, my mother always told me that when you don’t forgive someone, the person you hurt the most is yourself, no matter what, you don’t deserve to sit with that resentment.
And she’s always been right, not letting go makes you more upset.
6. Practice Non-Attachment
“The root of suffering is attachment.” – Buddha
Sometimes the things in life that upset us are huge, and sometimes they’re minor, but either way, non-attachment helps ease the burden.
About a week ago, I lost a turquoise ring I bought in Bali. I was bummed. That ring made me feel connected to Bali, it made me feel like a world traveler and a free spirit, and I loved those feelings.
But after letting myself be upset for about 60 seconds, I reminded myself that I’m all of those things – not because of a ring, but because of me.
Pretty instantly, I was over the ring and went on with my day. The ring happened to turn up later, but even if it hadn’t, it wouldn’t have bothered me.
As a society, we tend to assign ourselves value based on things. Because we associate so much of our happiness with these things, when something happens to them, it’s tough to let go of the negative feelings that come along.
And it’s not just material possessions we’re attached to either, but our jobs, our relationships, and the places we live.
There’s nothing wrong with caring about things, and you should definitely care about your relationships – but when you realize that you are whole entirely on your own and that the external world doesn’t define you, you spend a lot less time being upset.
Through practicing non-attachment, you also learn that nothing is permanent, so whatever you’re upset about right now – as cliche as it may sound, this too shall pass.
And if you need a little extra push in the direction of non-attachment, research shows that through this practice, you can achieve advanced psychological development, enhanced wisdom, and a greater sense of self-actualization.
7. Think of Wasted Time
According to the Gallup 2019 Global Emotions Report, sadness, anger, fear, and general stress levels rose to record highs in 2018, worldwide. That’s a lot of time spent being upset.
Have you ever gotten so upset about something that you’ve wasted hours, days, weeks, and maybe even longer being upset about it, just for it to not matter a little later on?
I’ve been there, and while you can’t get that time back, you can use it as a reminder to stop being upset next time you’re feeling that way.
Whenever you’re upset, especially if it’s about something you can’t control, think back to all the time you’ve wasted being upset in the past.
Do those things matter now? Did wallowing in your negative feelings when you could have done so much more with your time, make any of it better?
Chances are the answer is no, and reminding yourself of this can help you let go of some negative emotions.
Next time you start being upset, remember these tips and that while you can’t control all the things that upset you, you determine for how long and much they do.