You sit down to dinner and the phone rings. It’s not anyone you want to speak with, just some robocaller trying to snag the unwary. Besides being an incredible nuisance, these unwelcome calls just keep on coming. While this is a common nuisance, it’s not the only one, and many add to your stress level in a way that’s always unhealthy. What’s a person to do?

Have a plan in place — and use it.

While this is incredibly sound advice for work and most situations that require a thoughtful choice, it’s also a valuable strategy for dealing with stressful nuisances. Preparing a plan for every conceivable nuisance isn’t likely, nor should you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of situations and coping methods. For common, frequently or regularly occurring ones, though, it’s a promising idea. Work out the plan and make use of it. Refine it, adjusting it as needed. If it works for you, share it with your family and trusted friends.

Common Stressful Nuisances

Having experienced numerous nuisances over the years, I’ve determined some effective ways to deal with a few of the more common ones.

Dealing with pesky neighbors.

This is sometimes a delicate situation, depending on your relationship with your neighbors, what they want from you, how often they invade your space, how insistent/persistent they are, and whether they return the favor in kind. In our house, we’ve had good neighbors and those who were not so cordial. Having lived in the same home for nearly 25 years, we’ve seen some of the nearby property owners change. Some remain constant and are good neighbors in every respect. There’s no point in putting up with the neighbor who habitually rings the bell or comes into your yard when you’re doing something to ask for a favor, interrupts your work or wastes your time gossiping.

Insist on boundaries with difficult people. Say you’re too busy to talk, or learn to say no to their requests. This should cut down on some of the unwanted interruptions and unreasonable requests. If it doesn’t, consider saying good-bye with a smile and walking away.

Remember that you can’t change someone else’s behavior. Your best option is to find healthy ways to cope with this type of situation before it gets out of hand and raises your stress level.

Getting rid of robocalls.

Is this just a fantasy, or can you possibly ditch those incessant automated calls that always come at the most inopportune time? I found a great (and quite amusing) article on the topic in the Wall Street Journal by Jo Craven McGinty that’s a worthwhile read. Like most people, I’ve had it with robocallers and some time ago decided to do something about it. I added my name and phone numbers to the National Do Not Call registry as well as my state Do Not Call list. This simple action cut down on many (but not all) robocalls. The ones that do sneak through, I report those numbers to the registry, along with any pertinent information such as date, time of day, company name (if known), and other details. Repeat calls I also mention.

The problem is that illegitimate businesses or individuals attempting a scam have resorted to spoofing others’ phone numbers. That’s why we used to get calls for solar, “important message about your credit card”, air duct cleaning and more.

I signed a petition to motivate phone companies to offer ways to block unwanted calls. That effort was successful and our phone provider complied. Now we can block calls through our home phone.

The other tactic we use is to screen calls by turning on the answering machine when we’re eating. Robocalls will disconnect if no one answers. If we don’t have the answering machine on and the phone number hasn’t already been blocked, we look at the number on the phone display. If we don’t recognize it, we hit the answer button twice on the wall-mounted system and it ends the call.
Note that blocked numbers will still ring, but only once. It’s still a nuisance, yet this solution cuts down on a lot of stress.

Eliminating unsolicited offers via email and postal mail.

Another nuisance that causes stress is the bombardment of unsolicited offers, ads, requests for help from people you don’t or barely know every time you open your email. Remember that every time you subscribe to a newsletter or give your email to a company or service to get a coupon or buy something, your information will likely be used to sell you something you don’t want or need. Of course, there are legitimate communications and offers you do want to receive. How can you determine what you want to read or discard?

First, if you know the company and want such information, go to their website’s privacy section and change your preferences. Opt-out of anything you can that you don’t want the company to do, such as sharing your information with affiliates. If you no longer are a customer or don’t want to put up with these emails, unsubscribe.

If you get unsolicited emails, identify them as spam and they’ll go into your spam folder. That will cut down on a lot of email nuisances.

As for print materials that you receive in the mail, call or email the publication/source and say you want to be removed from the mailing list. Keep in mind this can take several months or issues to go into effect. You can also unsubscribe to magazines you’ve paid for if they’re no longer of interest. For junk mail, go to a service that allows you to determine what mail you want or don’t want.

Coping with social media requests that get out of hand.

Social media can be a good thing, helping you to stay in touch with family and friends, as well as co-workers, businesses and other organizations. It can also contribute to emotional stress, feelings of inadequacy, unhappiness, depression, jealousy and competitiveness. Be careful whose invitations to connect you accept, and elevate your privacy settings so they’re appropriate for your situation.

Never post personal details on social media that could put you or your loved ones in jeopardy. Watch what you say and upload, since what’s on the Internet lives on. Learn to say no. Unfriend or discontinue contacts (block messages/posts) if someone becomes a nuisance or pesters you online. Guard against fear of missing out (FOMO) by maintaining a healthy balance doing non-social-media-related activities. Connect with friends, family and others in-person. That will be more meaningful and productive than constant use of social media.