Just last week I wrote a broad-ranging item from the Harvard Medical School on reducing stress. I thought a single example from my own experience might be a useful illustration of some of their principles.
I walk my dog three times a day in a park nearby. As a result I see many of the same people over the course of a day or week as they walk their dogs. There is an older lady I encounter regularly who walks dogs as her job. She seems nice and I always say hello. Over the past few years I have probably encountered her several hundred times. If I pet the dog she is walking she will invariably ask me for my dog’s name. This happens nearly every time I run into her. In the past I would have found myself feeling annoyed with the lady because she always asked me the same question. Why couldn’t she remember my dog’s name, anyway? It would definitely become a source of stress for me.
These days, however, I simply realize that the lady is getting older and her memory probably isn’t what it used to be. It has no real relevance to me whether she can remember my dog’s name or not. The fact that she asks is at least showing interest in my dog. She is really acting kindly toward me and my dog. I just tell her the name as if it were the first time she ever asked. And that is that.
So here is a situation that would have caused me stress previously, but with a minimum amount of mental gymnastics, its effect becomes totally harmless.
I just stumbled across an additional side effect of reducing the stress in your life. If you suffer from arthritis (I do). The Mayo Clinic Health Letter says, “Research has shown that people with a positive, proactive attitude are likely to experience less pain and limitation from their arthritis than are those who are most negative…. A result of stress is muscle tension, which can worsen arthritis pain.”
To read further on handling stress, please check out my post: Some Super Tools for Handling Stress.