When something seemingly small doesn’t go your way, it’s easy to feel irritated for a while ― or even the whole day.
There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, in a TikTok posted by therapist Emma Mahony, she says there are some common occurrences that routinely wreak havoc on our attitudes — and there’s no shame in feeling let down by something that seems so small.
“Typically, when people say (their day was ruined), it’s in the context of something that disrupted the direction of their day,” said Mahony, a therapist at A Better Life Therapy in Philadelphia and mental health content creator. Talk News.
When compared to the world’s big issues, it’s easy to feel like your “little” issues aren’t worth getting upset about. But therapists say the people who are ruining your day are also worthy of your attention (and may even be connected to your feelings about bigger problems in the world).
Below, therapists share the most common problems that plague our days and how to deal with them so you don’t get caught in a negative cycle:
Other Traffic and Travel Disruptions
“I feel like people are really affected by traffic,” said Danica Harris, a somatic therapist and trainer in Texas. It makes sense: if you’re in a rush to get to an important doctor’s appointment but get stuck in a traffic jam, you’re going to be super stressed.
In addition to traffic jams, Mahony said, general travel disruptions are common things that disrupt his clients’ days, “whether it’s your car breaking down, (a) flat tire, delays in traveling by flight or train.”
According to Harris, people are often “so focused” on transportation delays, but there are ways to turn things around at that point. Yes, you may get stuck, but if you use that time to do something you enjoy, like listening to an audiobook or playlist, it will feel easier.
According to Mahony, many people also lose their cool when plans go awry, whether it’s a babysitter canceling so your date night is ruined or a friend canceling dinner plans you were excited about.
When things fail that should bring you happiness or connection, it can be a bad day, Mahony says. What’s more, Harris said, canceled plans can open up past wounds.
“Often what happens is something in the ‘small’ environment that triggers this internal experience, and that internal experience may be related to a past experience,” Harris says. “So, if my friend cancels on dinner… it doesn’t matter on the surface, but maybe when I think about it, I think, ‘Does my friend really like me?’”
Our brains turn something “small” into something global, Harris says. “That’s our brain. We’re, like, looking for predictability. We’re looking for patterns. We want to understand others and ourselves.”
“Our mood can be greatly influenced by things like the weather,” says Harris. “For example, when it rains, people may feel sad or feel less motivated to leave the house. Even things like changes in temperature can affect how we feel internally.”
Think about it: Has a rainy day ever made you want to cancel plans? Or has a rainy day forced you to cancel your outdoor plans? Of course this will affect your mood.
Along with the weather, seasonal changes occur, such as summer time. When the days get shorter, “it really affects a person’s mood and can ruin the day,” Harris said.
In fact, an estimated 10 million adults suffer from seasonal affective disorder, and it is most common in the winter, when the weather is cold and gloomy and the sun sets early. People often complain that it’s dark when they get home from work, which can also affect your mood, Harris says.
In Mahony’s TikTok on this topic, he said that weight is a common issue that affects people’s mentality throughout the day, “weighing yourself and looking at the number on the scale, letting whatever number decide whether you’re going to be happy or cruel to yourself for the rest of the week ,” Mahony said in the video.
“Before you weigh yourself, it’s important to ask yourself what you’re looking for when you do it,” Mahony told Talk News. “Is there a number you need to look at, and if not that, (will it) make your day or ruin your mood?” He adds that this conditions you to believe that you are inherently good or bad based on what the scale shows, which is of course not true.
Apart from that, Harris said that the right size of clothes usually also disrupts many people’s days. For example, if you have an idea of what you want to wear to an event but the clothes don’t fit when you try them on, it can ruin your mood.
“Then we thought about acceptance. I want to be accepted by others; I want to feel comfortable in my own skin,” Harris said. “This particular outfit is preventing me from looking the way I want, and when it doesn’t suit me, then my mood goes down — and now I don’t even want to do it. go to the event first.”
Anticipate Feared Events
Anticipatory feelings before a meeting you dread or a conversation you don’t want to have can also ruin the day – and sometimes even ruin the day before, Harris says.
People will “start predicting… what’s going to happen, as if they’re trying to prepare themselves for what’s going to happen,” Harris said. “But instead of preparing themselves, they put themselves in a negative mindset, and that negative mindset will affect the way they experience and view (the event) when it occurs.”
Another example of this? “What a scary Sunday.” How many times has that feeling of dread before the work day ruined your entire Sunday? Maybe quite a lot.
Westend61 via Getty Images
Train, plane and traffic delays are frustrating, but therapists say you can change your perspective so they don’t ruin your entire day.
Why These ‘Small’ Problems Ruin Our Days
With war, humanitarian crises, disease, natural disasters and more, “there are big things happening in the world all the time, and especially recently,” Harris said.
Focusing on these small problems is one way to feel more in control amidst the maelstrom of global problems.
“From an existential perspective, we can’t always be in touch with that… we would literally be fighting for survival. We will have a hard time functioning if we are constantly in contact with bad things,” Harris explains. “And we would feel completely out of control.”
Even people who are activists and advocates go through a bit of ups and downs to deal with the big issues they face, he said.
“Because there are so many things to be upset about in this world, sometimes it’s easier to focus on the little things because… it’s easier for me to get upset about the traffic versus the wars that are going on in many countries. right now,” said Harris.
You can vote, sign petitions, protest, and much more, but ultimately, global decisions are not entirely in your hands. Canceled dinner plans, for example, may be easier to manage in comparison.
“I think when we…get hung up on the little things that ruin our day, it feels like we gain control over it, like, ‘Okay, this is something I can overcome, so what can I learn if tomorrow I gotta leave early,’” Harris said.
How to Solve This Problem Makes You Annoyed
To start, allow yourself to feel the emotions that arise as a result of this setback, but don’t let it turn into a negative spiral.
“I think the important thing is… being human requires you to be adaptable and resilient. “Things like this happen,” Mahony said. “Not that it isn’t bad when it does happen, but it does happen. Your ability to calm down and take care of yourself in those moments is what will make them moments that ruin parts of your day, but not manifest into an overall negative cycle for you.
This is not the same as toxic positivity, Mahony says. If your plane is canceled and you can no longer visit your friends, it’s natural to be upset.
“The important thing is that you respect those emotions but don’t let them influence how you proceed and move forward,” he added.
If you spend too much time focusing on negative events, it trains your brain to seek out more negative events because of something called negativity bias, explains Mahony. “So if you say ‘My day was ruined because I got a flat tire’ … you start looking for negative things.”
In the moment, pay attention to what you’re feeling and express it, but also focus on what’s within your control, Mahony says. For example, what can you do if you have a flat tire? You can tell your boss that you will be late, and you can call roadside assistance.
“Just focus on what’s in front of you rather than letting it spiral into something bigger,” adds Mahony.
It can even be helpful if you make a list of what is in your control and what is out of your control. If you’re facing a delayed flight due to a storm, remind yourself that you can’t control the weather. “It also helps ground you,” adds Mahony.
After doing this a few times, considering what’s in and out of your control will become a practice, he says. “I’m not saying things can’t ruin your day, but don’t give it too much power.”
Additionally, Harris says it’s important to pay attention to the things that affect you. If traffic jams always confuse you, think about ways you can be kind to yourself to prepare for the situation, Harris says.
“If I’m being kinder to myself, then I’m looking for patterns that make me angry,” Harris said.
You can plan for situations that you know will make things worse for you. For example, you might save a favorite podcast to listen to in traffic or plan to call your boss if your arrival time is later than expected. And you can do mindfulness in the car, where you acknowledge your stress and anxiety.
“That doesn’t change things, right? If you’re stuck, you’re stuck, but if we can be gentle with ourselves, we can change our relationship with our stressors,” says Harris. “And if we can change our relationship to stressors, we’re less likely to experience excessive or global physiological responses, and that’s how we prevent ourselves from having bad days or persistent negative experiences. .”