Think Simple Now — a moment of clarity

What should I do with my life? Click here.

How to Cope When Little Things Overwhelm You

Photo by 9042004 Duke
It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are the most important. ~Arthur Conan Doyle

I have always been wary of the little things in life. The little things can steal my serenity, rob me of peace of mind and kill my joy.

At the same time, I have been aware of the little things in my life:

  • The smell of freshly brewed coffee
  • The overheard laughter of a stranger
  • A spider web glistening with morning dew

How can I be defeated by little things or more likely, how can I LET little things defeat me? I identify with the concept of Chinese Water Torture as a method of ultimate despair — the premise being that drops of water fall onto the forehead of a restrained individual and ultimately render them insane.

Bound Up

What are your drops of water? Mine are innocuous and yet deadly.

  • Laundry on the floor of my closet
  • Cups left on the coffee table
  • Dust on the baseboards
  • Too many red lights
  • The air too hot in a department store
  • Hunger
  • Headaches
  • Loneliness

These small and meaningless inconveniences are like water dropping on my forehead. I feel restrained and bound up in the realization that I have to handle them with joy, ease and with a socially acceptable amount of grace.

What I have is an unbridled inner frustration that makes my head spin around like a supernatural poltergeist.

I think it is a kind of poltergeist, the beast inside me, that I fear can jump out at any moment. I quietly put restraints on this beast and hide it deep within me, shackled in shame that I have created in my mind for fear of others finding out.

I smothered it in alcohol and buried it in control and put the flowers of perfection on the tombstone. Unfortunately, I buried it alive, only to rise again.

Handling the Big Things Successfully

In contrast, I think of the big things:

  • Death
  • Sickness
  • Life decisions
  • Ailing friends and family members
  • Divorce
  • School choices
  • Job changes
  • Car accidents

How am I able to live through these events and still maintain my serenity, peace of mind and joy? I am aware of a variety of behaviors and tools that I use in order to manage these important challenges in my life.

1. Stop Isolating

First and foremost, sharing with people who I love and love me really helps. Things like:

  • Seeking empathy with warm hugs and tears
  • Asking advice over a cup of coffee
  • Requesting prayers

By connecting with others when I feel I am in (emotional/physical/spiritual) danger, I am spreading out the risk, being vulnerable and ultimately feeling a part of a larger group of people who hurt when I hurt and laugh when I laugh.

2. Time Takes Time

I typically allow myself some time, thought and prayer before I act on a solution. I am gentle with myself, understanding that time takes time and healing of hurts is not instantaneous.

I do not have the belief that I can do it alone nor that I should be able to handle it by myself. I am accepting of my limitations in the face of an event that is a Godzilla in my life. I find solace in fleeing with the crowd and seeking shelter together.

3. Surrender

Lastly, I surrender it to my Higher Power, the God who created me and knows every hair on my head. A sickness or a death is worth His attention and so completely out of my control that only God can help.

It is easy to understand my powerlessness when I can’t even imagine a solution of this world.

Crossing Over Knowledge

So, since big things are manageable, how can I apply those principles to the little things in my life?

Am I willing to allow myself to admit little things are actually big things in disguise? One drop of water can’t kill me, but that same drop of water over and over again, day after day, year after year can drown me.

What if I applied those same principles for big things to my little things? Could I save myself from a slow death of unhappiness? Am I able to live with myself if I let others in to view the beast inside?

Think of each small frustration as a minion chasing after evil in order to worship it and serve it. If I am able to defeat each minion there will not be an army of failures to worship at my altar of shame.

1. Accept Yourself

So I hesitantly step forward to share my frustrations with another. I am not a terrible person because I get overwhelmed when there is laundry on the floor of my closet.

I just need a positive balance to offset the negative action. Maybe call a friend to talk to while I put the clothes away. At the same time, I am fighting off another minion of loneliness.

I am also slaying the shame that tells me this issue is ridiculous and shouldn’t be so hard. It is hard for me. There, I said it.

2. Be Reasonable With Yourself

Secondly, I set up some reasonable guidelines for action. Maybe I set my alarm for 15 minutes and pick up clothes for that time and stop when time is up?

I also begin to understand that all of these small things might not be mine to solve. Those cups on the coffee table are not mine; all I have to do is ask others to be responsible and expect results.

The stoplights? Within my control is the amount of time I need to get anywhere I am going. Instead of rushing, I can plan on leaving early and have a book in the car in case I have time to kill. Other inconveniences I can either accept as life or choose to find humor in.

3.  Be Grateful For Everything

If God knows every hair on my head, then he also knows every dirty dish in my sink, every minute of loneliness, every wrinkled shirt and every missed opportunity I have to pray to him.

Each action in my life, every breath, can be an expression of Him and how much He loves me. He made the minions and He also made me.

If I thank him for the minions, then I will be grateful that each one allows me an opportunity to remind myself of how good God is in my life. Who is to say that I am not a minion to someone else? Imagine if everyone I frustrated thanked God for me!!!

“Drip, Drip, Drip,” can remind me that God is the living water, or it can drown me in my own insanity. Each drop can nourish my soul with gratitude or be another tear falling on my pillow.

The clarity of the water can reflect rainbows in my life and wash away my fears. I can pull against the restraints or fold into them, sliding peacefully away on the river of life. I can sink or swim — either way I will still be wet. I might as well enjoy it!

Before you go: please share this story on Facebook, RT on Twitter. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to receive email updates. Thank you for your support!
Connect with TSN Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Instagram RSS
About the author

Julie Ouellette is a perfectly imperfect mom, wife and sister whose mission in life is to make as many mistakes and laugh as much as humanly possible while growing into a woman of character. While dealing with the little things in life, she has conquered many obstacles with the help of those around her. Her struggles with addiction, anxiety and depression are balanced by the joy of serving those who are struggling with the same challenges through empathy and human connection.

Love this article? Sign up for weekly updates!

Think Simple Now delivers weekly self-reflective, inspiring stories from real people. Join our empowering community by entering your email address below.

6 thoughts on How to Cope When Little Things Overwhelm You

  1. lj

    I love this blog !! So heartfelt and I can complete identify with all of it.
    It’s through acceptance the simple “things” .in which we truly find ourselves .

  2. gratitude and putting things in perspective are the most powerful responses in my experience. I also remind myself that those are the perfect moments to practice patience and calmness.

    but mostly, as our lives are quite repetitive in most cases, even though people dislike to admit the biggest thing here is to influence your environment.

    The water drops for me are for instance people in the office on the phone. To counter that I get there earlier for the important stuff and have the biggest headset in the company, that takes care of my water.

    • Julie Ouellette

      Guilherme, I love your practical suggestions to overcoming your daily irritations, thanks for sharing. I have had some great conversations with others after this blog was posted, especially my husband who shared his own list of small things with me. I had never known! Now I can make sure I am sensitive to his small irritations that are like my own but over different things. It also reminds me that I can also be a ‘small thing’ to another person and not even know it :)

  3. Hi Julie,

    I love your last piece of advice.

    Being grateful is by far the most simple yet always overlooked part of life. If we get overwhelmed, stressed, anxious – let’s pause and consider where we are at and be thankful for each breath we take. It makes all the difference.

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Very true how the most little things in life can overwhelm us and also trap us in a routine. There’s always so much to do with so little time, and we constantly feel unaccomplished. Everyone can relate to this, yet people seldom talk about it! So thanks for sharing this!

Your thoughts?

Leave a Comment

We’d love to hear them! Please share.

Think Simple Now, a moment of clarity © 2007-2022 Privacy Disclaimer
Back to top