“If we didn’t spend so much time reacting to things, we would spend less time feeling bothered. We would be able to relax in our lives the way our mind relaxes in meditation.” – Angel Williams

You wake up and immediately think of all the stuff you feel you must do today. Rather, consider that this list is what you either told yourself is necessary, contains some that you figure you’ll maybe get around to, some that are totally unnecessary and not time-sensitive, and still more items others added to your workload or responsibility by someone else. Some of these are undoubtedly a real chore, while other tasks are less onerous but still something you’d rather not do. Yet, it isn’t the planned to-do list that often bothers you but those situations and problems that require you to act. Here’s the difficulty: You’re reacting to things — and that bothers you.

Here are some suggestions on how you can be proactive instead of reactive, and to mitigate the feeling of obligation or pressure, so as not to allow yourself to become bothered by what lies ahead.

Dealing with the Unexpected

Granted, everyone experiences the unexpected. How can you deal with these situations without instantly going into reaction mode so that they bother you? It may be tough at first, but you can do it.

Take this as an example. Your boss suddenly drops a hot project on your desk and that throws your evening’s activities with the family off the planned agenda. You dive in, not without some disappointment at what you’re missing out on and not without a tinge of resentment toward your boss.

To prevent your personal reaction from escalating into full-blown bother, take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself that you are fully capable of handling this task, and your boss has confidence in your abilities or you wouldn’t have been given the assignment.

Run through a mental list of how you’ll tackle this project in a step-by-step fashion. Enlist help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask the boss for more time if it is warranted and won’t jeopardize the deadline.

It’s also important that you let your family know you’ll be tied up for a while. Promise to reschedule the activity you had planned with them. If that is not possible, pledge to spend time with them in another special activity – and make sure to keep your promise.

While you’ll still have to do the work your boss gave you, you’re now more in control of the process and the timing. That eliminates the reaction and erases the bother to a certain degree.

It might also help to remind your boss that you’ve come through on this urgent assignment and ask for time off to compensate for it. You are worth it and your boss knows it.

Dealing With Requests from Co-workers, Family Members and Friends

Other situations and things that tend to cause reaction and bother can be dealt with in a comparable way. Some, however, require more deliberate action, undertaken tactfully.

Suppose you’re nearly finished for the day with whatever tasks you’ve identified and worked on according to your planned schedule. Just as you’re ready to tidy up your desk and head out the door, a co-worker entreats you to give him or her a hand with some task. Instead of brushing off the request, consider whether you’ve asked for such a favor of this person before. If so, and the help was readily given, you may wish to reciprocate the favor. After all, that’s only fair and it shows that you are willing to give as well as take. With the two of you working on the task, it should be accomplished quickly. At the very least, you both can make some serious headway so what remains to be done won’t take that long the next day.

If, however, this co-worker always waits until the last minute and expects you to help regardless of your plans, say you have plans and you won’t be able to help. You could also be more direct and say that coming to you for assistance at the end of the day is a pattern and you don’t appreciate it. Therefore, you’re not going to help this time. Be sure you stand firm with your decision.

What about issues with family members or friends that suddenly interfere with whatever you’ve got planned? How can you effectively deal with their requests? Here, make sure that you understand the scope of the request, determine if it’s legitimate or does this person merely want to spend some time with you? Do they have another motive for asking, such as needing to discuss a problem with you? Ask questions if you need more input before you decide whether to grant their request. It could benefit both of you if what results is finding resolution to a pressing issue or discussion smooths the relationship.

Quick Recap

Summarizing the strategy, first take a few deep breaths. Think about who is asking for or demanding your help and whether you want or must comply. Consider your strengths next. Determine what you need. Prioritize steps. Enlist help. Ask for more time if you need it. Get to work.

While you may not be as relaxed as you are when you meditate, or engage in an enjoyable leisure activity, you will lessen the anxiety, dampen any resentment and increase your self-confidence. Knowing you have the ability, fortitude and strength of character to see this thing through is a great boost to your self-esteem as well.