Relieve Stress in One Easy Step

by Larry Hehn on May 30, 2013

road rageI dropped my son off at school early this morning. I don’t usually drive him, but today he had to be there for 6 am. On my drive home along two eastbound lanes, I sought to move from the left lane to the right, since I had to turn south at the next block.

After putting my turn indicator on, checking my mirrors, and doing the standard head-turn check for my blind spot, I determined that I had plenty of room to move over.

However, the guy who was several car lengths behind me in the right lane had other ideas.

As soon as I indicated my desire to get into his lane, he mashed the accelerator to close the gap between himself and the car in front. I’m not sure what possessed him to try to squeeze me out, but he obviously didn’t want me to be in front of him, even though I already was.

Though I saw him start to accelerate, I still had plenty of room to make the shift. As I eased into the right hand lane, I could see him fuming in my rear view mirror.

He was yelling, waving his right hand around, and having an all around hissy fit. Even as I turned right and he continued straight, I could see him glare at me as he went through the intersection.

“Dude,” I thought out loud, “Do you realize that my pulling in front of you didn’t add a single second to your trip, or pose any sort of threat to your drive? It’s 6:01 am. I sure hope the rest of your day gets better.”

Of course, that’s completely up to him.

It’s something I’ve learned firsthand over the last little while. My wife and I just wrapped up a few weeks with a counsellor. One of the biggest lessons I gleaned from our time there is that I am responsible for my own attitude. Whether or not something stresses me out or offends me, is completely up to me.

It’s amazing how much stress melts away when I simply choose not to be offended by stuff.

If you are looking for reasons to be offended, you are sure to find them. Heck, you may have already decided that you are offended by this post. Ultimately it’s a choice. My driving buddy could have just as easily let me change lanes without incident. I’m sure his day would have been better as a result.

I’m thankful to be more aware now of just how liberating the right attitude can be. It seems so simple in hindsight, but this was a revelation that really only came to light through some great conversations mediated by a helpful counsellor.

And it’s definitely something worth sharing.

Want to relieve stress in one easy step? Choose not to be easily offended.

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin May 30, 2013 at 10:07 am

I had an interesting conversation with my counselor yesterday. She told me about an experience she had while riding her bike through the park.

She was coming up on two ladies who were walking and she smiled and said “Hi” and they didn’t look at her or respond; they completely ignored her. She started thinking, “Why didn’t they say anything to me? Is it because I’m overweight? Is it my race?” A little while later, she was coming up on another lady who said “Good morning! What a great day it is!” and my counselor thought, “Wow, that lady is so nice.”

When she had the negative experience with the first two ladies, she thought it had something to do with her, something that was wrong or different that the ladies didn’t like. But when she had the positive experience with the friendly lady, she placed the reason for the friendliness on the other person.

I live with an attitude of negative experiences are because of what is wrong with me and positive experiences are because of what is right in you. This brings on feeling offended because when something bad happens, I immediately conclude that it was because of me and something I did, and my instinct is to defend myself and point the finger at the other person. But, if I were to live out of love and acceptance of the good in myself and in others, those emotions don’t come to light because they have no reason to. I stop trying to fix myself and get my point across in situations and I’m present in the here and now. There are so many other emotions and experiences that are worth owning.

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Larry Hehn May 30, 2013 at 10:11 am

Interesting observation, Kristin. Thanks for sharing this!

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Ricky Anderson May 30, 2013 at 10:32 am

I live half my life worried about others’ reactions.

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Larry Hehn May 31, 2013 at 8:18 am

I hear you, Ricky. There are people in my life whose feedback I definitely value, who will have the hard conversations and speak in love. At the same time, I’ve discovered there are some people who will be offended no matter what. I’m learning to recognize those no-win situations and simply let them go. I’m praying the same for you, bro!

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Liz McLennan May 30, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I think that this is something we all struggle with, as human beings, during different parts of our journey. It’s freeing though, isn’t it, to choose to see/be the good and think positively rather than the opposite?

(Although, I admit that sometimes I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and blame the world for everything that happens from that moment on. Not pleasant, but there it is…)

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Larry Hehn May 31, 2013 at 8:23 am

It’s definitely always there. John Bevere wrote a great book about it called The Bait of Satan. For me, learning to recognize some physical or mental triggers (my shoulders tend to tense up and I start to feel the adrenaline pumping) allows me to nip it in the bud, if I choose to. Now that I’m starting to experience the peace of letting stuff go, I don’t want to go back to being so persnickety. Well said, Liz!

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Carol Rives May 31, 2013 at 8:33 am

Love your words, Larry and those of Carl Jung! It’s such a very simple concept, yet so difficult at the same time. Why is that?
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Larry Hehn May 31, 2013 at 9:49 am

So true, Carol. That realization humbles me pretty quick, or at least it should. 🙂

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Chad May 31, 2013 at 9:16 am

There’s this lesson the Lord keeps teaching me: leave your reputation up to Me. Don’t always do so well with this–want to defend myself. Because it’s easier to blame for than it is to take personal responsibility, right?
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Larry Hehn May 31, 2013 at 9:53 am

Ooh yeah, guilty on that charge for sure, Chad. I recognized through the counselling that my default mode is to get defensive. It’s something I always need to be aware of. Great point!

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