How Can I Just Move On When Something Bad Happens?
By: Marie Miguel
Updated October 21, 2021
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a day where nothing goes wrong? Some days, it seems to start off bad when the alarm does not go off, then, the dog vomits on the floor, plus there is no milk for cereal, and the car won’t start. It is almost like a chain reaction of bad events and once it gets going, it never stops. With a day like this, no one would really blame you if you just let out a primal scream or hurl obscenities at the top of your lungs. Sometimes, it can really set anger and frustration in motion – it is just hard to let it go and move on.
Stan is a certified construction contractor. He is hardworking and a good provider for his family. His wife, Jeanne, is a part-time elementary school teacher and she divides her day between her job and their two-year-old daughter, Tiffany. Their home is a modest house in the suburbs, well-kept and stylishly decorated. They are a favorite family in the neighborhood of mostly older couples with grown children and are at no loss for babysitters. No one in the neighborhood could ever guess that something bad could happen in this beautiful little family. It is not, however, the “bad things that happen” which make Jeanne unhappy and afraid for her daughter’s well-being It is Stan’s hot temper and his inability to move on when something “bad” happens, even if it is minor.
He is one of those people who literally “cries over spilled milk”. With a two-year-old in the house, things are going to get knocked over. However, one morning when Tiffany was waving her favorite bear around at the breakfast table, the bear hit Stan’s coffee cup. The coffee cup went straight to his lap. Stan jumped up from the table and grabbed the bear from Tiffany with one hand and lifted her out of the high chair with the other which caused her to start crying and Jeanne ran in, now also upset. She knew he was already in a bad mood because the neighbor’s all night howling dog woke him up an hour early that morning.
He had complained about this all morning, about how the neighbors should be reported and that the dog should be taken away from them. Jeanne knew to listen and to let him vent when he was like this. But, she was very shocked as she came into the kitchen just in time to see Stan lift Tiffany out of the high chair.
What is important to take note of here is it is not just Stan who is distressed. His difficulty with managing his emotions effectively are affecting everyone around him. He could really benefit from learning some distress tolerance skills and how to better manage frustrations. A counselor is a great resource for teaching distress tolerance skills.
So How do I Move on?
Stan needs to see or talk to someone who understands about his difficulty in letting things go and allowing his anger to build up. He may suffer from a form of anxiety disorder that causes him to obsess even in minor situations and details. Stan may benefit from sessions with a cognitive-behavioral therapist where he can talk about the things that bother him and underlying thoughts he may have that cause him to feel like something bad is always about to happen, which could be why he reacts so strongly to minor stressors. The theory behind cognitive behavioral therapy is that we all have thoughts that cause our feelings, that influence our behaviors or actions, for good or bad. It is possible that Stan has some irrational thoughts that cause him to feel stress and frustration which is why he acts out over small issues.
Another suggestion is that we all need an outlet for our frustrations and stressors. This is time set aside that is just for us and it can help restore us so that we can better deal with life’s stresses. For some people, a stop at the gym after work can really help. Some people need to make time for their creative outlets or time with friends. We all need to make sure that we are getting enough sleep and taking care of ourselves. When we are overtired and depleted, it is easy to let little things get to us.
There is a saying in 12 step groups that say that we can start our day over at any time. So, just because your morning gets off to a terrible start does NOT mean that the rest of the day is bad. What usually happens, is when our morning gets off to a bad start, we are more likely to notice all the negative things that happen the rest of the day and ignore or not see the positive things that happen. This is why the saying, “start your day over” is so important. To put it into practice, take a moment to say, “this morning was rough, but I want to have a good day. I am going to start this day over.” You could even literally shake off the first part of the day by shrugging your shoulders and shaking your body.
One thing counselors often help their clients with is practicing mindfulness and grounding exercises. These exercises help stop the rapid thoughts and feelings and are essentially like a time out. Learning how to practice either of these techniques can be an invaluable tool when you notice yourself getting overwhelmed with stress. Think of a pot of water on the stove. It starts out cold, then starts to simmer, then a slow boil, and if you leave it on too long, it will boil over. Our emotions are similar and these skills can help you by noticing when you anger is starting to simmer and boil, so you can do something before it boils over (when your anger erupts).
It can also be helpful to stop, take a deep cleansing breath and run through a checklist. Tell yourself that you are feeling really upset and frustrated right now, but will it bother you tomorrow? Next week? Six months from now? Next year? This can help you keep it in perspective. It can also help you decide if there is anything you can do about your feelings. Like in the example above, Stan could have made a plan that morning to talk to his neighbor with the barking dog and give the neighbor a chance to make a change, rather than venting to his wife, which solved nothing.
Stan, just like everyone else with this issue, will sometimes have days that start off bad, but he needs to learn to let things go before a minor situation turns into something worse.
We all will have days that do not go well. We will get bad news, have a flat tire, forget milk at the store and have to turn around, but pay attention to how often this is happening and how much it is affecting you and the people around you. If it seems to be causing you significant distress, reach out to a counselor. BetterHelp has thousands of counselors ready to help you gain insight into why you are struggling with seemingly minor stressors and can help you gain skills to handle them more effectively so they do not cause you so much distress. You deserve to feel content and to be able to deal with stress and frustration in a healthy way to reach out for help today!
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