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Four Steps to a Less Stressed Lifestyle

My eyes flash open. I stare at the glowing time on the alarm clock. 6:50 am. Great, here come the longest ten minutes of my life. I think I’ll just lie here until my alarm goes off at 7:00. Just as I feel myself slipping back into the restful world of sleep I’m pummeled back to earth with the painful sounds of some awful power tool.

Just what I was hoping for. A freaking cement truck at 7 in the morning. Who the hell is using a chain saw? Is that a crane? Wait, they’re not mowing the lawn now too, are they…it’s March!  Oh, of course it makes sense to shout outside my window right now.

On days like these I wake up sure that everything in the world is out to destroy my peaceful life. The birds aren’t chirping, they are croaking a secret plan to make me lose my mind. The breeze is not smoothly gliding; it’s tearing through the world on a violent rampage surely meant to tear my head off. My professor was not lecturing test material; she was purposefully lying to make sure I fail the exam.

When I get moody, I make a ton of sense. Obviously the stairs were made at just that angle to ensure my inevitable face plant, because that’s logical.

I’d like to pretend I never get into irrationally angry, self-pitying moods, but since that would be a pointless farce, I’ll tell you what I think we should all work on to prevent such moods. While I might be completely unqualified to give advice, I can definitely speak from experience.

Step 1: Stop looking for excuses to explain why you aren’t having a good day.
Did you fail a test? Happens, buddy. Are you failing life? No, so get over it. Don’t blame other people for the fail. You’ll feel better acknowledging that maybe you just didn’t study enough. Or maybe you studied the wrong material for hours, but now you know how to fix it for the next exam. Or maybe, the class is just too hard for you and you need help. So get it.

Don’t blame it on stupid things like your professor’s accent or the pencil you used to fill out the scantron. Even if your professor’s accent made it sound like you should ONLY use a blue ink pen.

However, if you are somehow actually failing life (you accidentally sunk a cruise ship, for example) I suggest skipping to step 4.

Step 2: Stop taking yourself so seriously.

Step 3: Stop with the constant self-deprecating humor.
These two go together. You might be just a “my life is so important” type or a “I’m going nowhere type”, or the dreaded mix of both at the wrong time type. There needs to be a healthy balance. In all seriousness, your life is vitally important, as are you, but when little things go wrong, take them with ease. Don’t let yourself lose perspective and assume that one failed test or one awkward conversation will end all prospects of success.

Freaking out about things that aren’t actually harming you is a problem. Making yourself the butt of jokes in order to ignore responsibility or fears, another problem. Notice that the actual events that you are freaking out about or the characteristic you are making fun of are not the problems, but the way you are dealing with them is detrimental.

So next time you want to lash out because there are raisins in the cookies or the fliers aren’t the right shade of sunshine yellow, take a step back and think “Is this moment actually the end of the world, or is it my reaction that is the catalyst for a nuclear war?” And next time you want to tear yourself apart for being bad at math or uglier than Shrek, try to think what it’s going to accomplish.

Are you making an innocent joke, or tearing yourself to shreds before all of your imaginary enemies can destroy your self-esteem first? Now all you have to do is walk the tightrope that falls right in the middle of being a pretentious prick and a self-loathing comedian. Good luck!

Step 4: Start smiling, for goodness sake!
Lucky for you, you woke up this morning. Maybe it was to the sound of construction outside of your dorm (the horrors of a new and improved campus) or to your roommate’s annoying ringtone, but, nonetheless, you are alive! And if you were to take an honest inventory of your life, it would probably come up quite positively. So just smile. Smile at a stranger, smile at a friend, Skype your family and smile at them!

Do it even if you don’t want to. Do it even if it’s raining and gray and you just want to scowl at the ground and curse the fate that gave you curly hair that frizzes fifty feet away from your head in all but perfect weather conditions. And who knows, you might just be the difference for someone else. Your smile can literally transform utter suck into pure awesome. That’s one powerful smile. 

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