What do you do when faced with a frustrating problem? Yell, scream or stomp away in a rage? Or do you internalise your emotions and suffer in silence?
Queue-cutters, misbehaving kids, errant drivers – all these can make our blood boil. Daniel Koh, psychologist at Insights Mind Centre, tells us how to cope with difficult situations that can affect our mental health in the long term. “If you internalise your anger, you build up negative emotions. When these become too much to handle, anxiety or depression may set in, and you may engage in self-blame, which will make you feel even worse.”
Here are some tips from Daniel on how to deal with common stressful problems.
1 STRESSED OUT? You’re late for work and driving during rush hour when a car comes out of nowhere and cuts into your lane without indicating.
ZEN OUT! Instead of getting angry, let it go and focus on the positive by telling yourself: “It’s okay, at least I’m a better driver.”
2 STRESSED OUT? You come home to discover your three- year-old has decorated the walls and your pristine white sofa with her crayons.
ZEN OUT! This is normal child behaviour, so try to laugh it off and be proud of her creative abilities. Once you’re calm, gently explain to her that what she did was wrong and you can also create an “art corner” for her to express herself.
3 STRESSED OUT? You’re on a tight deadline, and your colleague has not done her part. The project is incomplete and you have to show it to your boss, but your colleague has called in sick.
ZEN OUT! Calm down and focus on the project. By demonstrating what you can do, you will win your boss’s confidence. Avoid blaming your colleague, as it may reflect badly on you. Instead, show them how you can handle the presentation on your own.
4 STRESSED OUT? You gave your helper specific instructions about the housework, but when you get home, she hasn’t followed them – and worse – doesn’t even care that you’re angry.
ZEN OUT! Calmly ask her what happened. Getting angry may cause her to shut you out, making it seem like she doesn’t care. Ask yourself where the fault lies – perhaps you don’t praise her enough? Positive communication is key.
5 STRESSED OUT? You find yourself constantly nagging your husband. Sometimes, your rants evolve into minor arguments that leave you both upset. You hate losing your temper but he is just so lazy.
ZEN OUT! Nobody likes to be constantly told they can’t do anything right. Instead of putting him down, identify the problems and discuss a compromise. Tell him he has to play his part too, and praise him when he does – this will encourage him to do more.
6 STRESSED OUT? Your 10-year-old son’s teacher calls you at work to say that he has not completed his homework – and according to her, your boy is a repeat offender. You are angry that your son has not mentioned anything.
ZEN OUT! Ask yourself if you’re using anger to cover up your actual emotions. You could be feeling guilty and helpless. Once you identify the reason for your anger, you’ll be able to make better decisions about disciplining him.
7 STRESSED OUT? Your phone bill is unusually high, and after checking, you realise that you were overcharged a few hundred dollars. You call the phone company about the mistake, but they just put you on hold. When someone finally speaks to you, you’re at your breaking point.
ZEN OUT! Being kept on hold for a long period can be annoying because it’s a waste of time, and makes you feel unimportant. Instead of getting mad, remember that the representative is there to help you. By showing him respect, you may get better service.
8 STRESSED OUT? At a restaurant, your steak is burnt instead of medium rare, and your salad leaves look half-rotten. The waiter refuses to take your food back and you are more upset about his attitude than your botched meal. The manager isn’t apologetic either.
ZEN OUT! Calmly explain to the manager why you aren’t satisfied with your meal. If you are polite, he might be more inclined to serve you better. As a last resort, you can always write to the restaurant management – but always do so in a constructive and mature manner.
This article was originally published in Simply Her January 2011.