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How to Stop Stewing About Something

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Photo: Yara Slep (Shutterstock)

Everyone has their own proverbial buttons that, when pushed, really set them off: So-called “sore spots” that trigger particularly strong reactions. People close to us typically are aware of these buttons, but it’s often strangers or others who don’t know us as well who unknowingly push them.

Regardless of who or what sets us off, if we take something personally—even if it wasn’t intended as an affront to our character or behavior—there’s the possibility that beyond making us upset in the moment, the anger and annoyance can linger.

But when we let something stew, it can use up a lot of our time and emotional energy, affecting our mood, and potentially elevating our stress level. Here are a few ways to stop stewing and move on with your day (and life).

How to stop stewing

We may not be able to control someone else’s behavior, but we can mitigate the effects, ensuring that even if something makes us upset in the moment, we don’t waste our time and energy stewing over it. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Take a minute to identify the issue: As soon as you realize that you’re starting to stew over something, pause for a moment to identify what set you off and why.
  • Create a backstory: If the offender is a stranger, make up a backstory to explain their behavior. Maybe that person cut you off on the freeway because they were rushing to the hospital, etc.
  • Think through the event in third-person: Creating this psychological distance between yourself and the incident can help you gain clarity and perspective.

Finally, keep in mind that the person who offended you probably isn’t thinking about the incident. In fact, they may not even be aware that they did something that upset you. That may make the whole thing feel a little less personal, and help stop the cycle of stewing over it.

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