Dealing with stressful situations by letting go.
We all have things that cause us frustration and stress, be they family habits and activities, difficult friends or coworkers’ quirks. We can’t make these annoyances go away, but we can change the way we handle them. We can let them go.
In Denmark, there’s a word for this—pyt. The closest English phrases are “don’t worry about it,” “stuff happens” and “oh well.” However you spin it, pyt is great advice. By letting go, you can better manage your emotions, which is good for your physical and mental health.
Here are some tips on how to employ pyt:
Be kind to yourself. “Pyt reminds us that some suffering is universal and inevitable,” says Michelle Maidenberg, PhD, psychotherapist in Westchester, New York. There is often no choice but to accept and “be with” your suffering. But in the process, you can be kind to yourself, like you would a beloved friend. “In 2018 alone, there were more than 1,840 studies showing the benefits of self-compassion,” Maidenberg says. These include increased well-being, happiness, gratitude, self-confidence, creativity and overall health.
Respect differences. You can smooth out contentious interactions by acknowledging and respecting differences in generational, political or behavioral norms, says Dana Dorfman, PhD, psychotherapist and cohost of the podcast 2 Moms on the Couch. For example, a younger person may not condone an older person’s seeming close-mindedness, but he or she may consider the backdrop of this person’s perspective. Or, if an older person understands that a younger person’s cell phone use at the dinner table or during a work meeting isn’t a sign of disrespect but rather a way to maintain communication or peer bonds, he will be less likely to disapprove.
Self-soothe. In the heat of the moment, you can calm yourself with self-soothing touch, Maidenberg says. Try the following:
- Hold one hand over the other
- Put two hands on your belly
- Cradle your face with both hands
- Cup your hands in your lap
- Gently stroke your arm
- Imagine a calm, supportive person or environment
- Sit and feel your feet firmly on the ground
- Pay attention to your breath, the inhalation and exhalation
- Stretch a rubber band between your fingers
- Repeat supportive words to yourself in your head—“you’re capable,” “you’re worthy” and “you can do it.”
- Notice your physiological responses. If you feel your heart beating and your palms sweating, you know you’re anxious and need to calm your body down.
- Engage in exercise and mindfulness meditation at least a few times a week.
Rehearse your reaction. As you anticipate a stressful setting, such as a holiday dinner or tense work obligation, rehearse the scene and determine what you’d ideally like your response to be, says Susan Kolod, PhD, psychologist in New York City. It can be easy to regress among family; instead, bolster your maturity in the face of challenges. For example, if your uncle always comments on your weight and it upsets you, plan a calm, rational response in advance, she says.
Respect your values. Lead by way of your own values and not someone else’s behavior, Maidenberg says. “If someone is unkind, rather than striking back, think about who you want to be and who your best self is” she says. After all, you cannot change or control someone else’s behavior, but you can control your own. Realize that by taking the high road, you’re not letting the other person off the hook; you’re letting go of anger, which is healthy for your body and mind.
In the spirit of pyt, don’t let difficult situations get the best of you. “Internally working on ourselves gives us the strength to deal with adversity,” Maidenberg says. By letting go, you can take control of your own reactions and emotions, stay true to yourself, remain calm and be happier, healthier person overall.