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Why Do I Overreact to the Small Stuff?

Lost Phone, Lost Keys, Lost Car

Do you spend too much of your life looking for lost stuff?  Then totally over-react?
I don’t know about you, but I’m always misplacing things and searching for them—all too often over-reacting to the situation as if I’d lost my last dime.
And it’s not just about losing stuff.  It’s about all the little things that happen in our day that we overreact to.
My over-reaction often generates something akin to an electrical shock running through my body every time I lose my cell phone—which is at least once a day.  Then there are glasses and car keys followed by my laptop, charging cords, credit cards and coffee cups.  It never ends.
If we lose/misplace things, we’re not alone.  

  • 20,000,00 car and house keys are lost every year. 
  • 100% of people report having lost at least one set of glasses.
  • 70,000,000 people lose their cell phones each year.
  • Someone losses a laptop every 53 seconds.

Carrying Around $5,000 in Stuff Every Day—Expensive to Lose, Important to Keep
And it’s not like what we keep up with isn’t a big deal.   We all walk around carrying thousands of dollars of really valuable stuff we’re managing—with fragile memories and constant distractions. 

  • My car keys cost $400 to replace—not like when I got a new pair made at the local hardware store for a buck..
  • 0n the end of my nose are $1,500 glasses I literally couldn’t see without.
  • My laptop I carry everywhere is about $2,000. 
  • My cell phone, which organizes and runs my life, costs more than $1,000.

 Every day I walk out of the house I’m managing over $5,000 of things I’m carrying just walking around.  That makes a person cautious and wary. 

But how do I react to the fear of losing one of the basic things I depend on—when there is no crisis?  What do I do when my reactions far outweigh the situation?  

The Cost of Over-reaction—Why am I so Prone to Over-reacting to Little Things?

Over-reaction causes a huge amount of mental, physical, and emotional damage.  Over-reaction distorts everything.  My mind and emotions often have a difficult time reacting proportionally to the different levels of danger I face. 

There’s a reason why we over-react at gut level to relatively small things.

To our ancient forebearers, most dangers had the potential to be life threatening—predators, enemies, injury, and even minor disease had the potential of ending life quickly.   Our emotions gave us the message to fight or flee.  These reactions served our ancestors and serve us today in a certain way. 

For early humanity, flight or fight was the most important rule—today the very opposite is true.  The person who is able to control reactions and act according to the situation has the greater ability to survive and thrive.  In today’s world it is always about remaining calm and in control as much as possible, and to know what to do when you have no control over circumstances at all.

So how do I avoid overreaction?  It is a 24/7 job for the rest of our lives.  Here are some concepts I’d like to share with you.

  1. When You Over-React You’re Treating Yourself Like the Child You Were.  Can you hear the voices of your parents and teachers when they were in their authoritative, directive, ordering mode.  They were constantly holding up a standard that you rarely could meet.  They warned you of the dangers around you, and what happens to the careless and lax.  They wanted you to react now and strongly enough to know you were taking them seriously.

    Those voices are in my head today and every day, and I find that when I over-react to situations I’m reacting to those stern voices.  Now I, in the place of my parents, am warning myself of the dangers that surround me.  Those “should do’s” and “better watch out’s” keep me reacting and over-reacting to every possible misstep. As we grow into adulthood, we it’s counter-productive to manage our daily missteps by over-reaction or self-criticism. 
  2. Become Your Own Risk Assessment Manager – The best test for the validity of fear is the familiar question, “What are the odds”?   The best thing that anyone can do when they’re about to over-react is to have a conversation with themselves and ask how likely it is that what is freaking me out will really happen. The odds are way against most things happening that I worry about.   

    I actually try to put a number to my worries.  Is there a 50/50 chance that this will happen?  Most of the time what I’m worrying about has less than a 1 percent chance of happening.  If you become really good at realistically assessing risk, you will spend much less time overreacting to something that won’t happen.
  3. Keep Calm in the Storm—You’re the Captain of Your Ship.  Remaining coolly calm is the key to managing any situation.  it’s the only way to walk through it.  When my computer crashes or I can’t find my socks, I always think of people like Warren Buffet who don’t over-react in the darkest circumstances.  Warren Buffet, America’s foremost investor, turned 90 in the last few days. 

    Buffet is one of the most successful investors who has ever lived and one of the world’s richest people.  He has lived a lifetime in economic cycles, crashes in the economy, year after year lawsuits, and a bout with cancer.  Through all these experiences he has kept an even keel and his focus is on what he most wants to do in life. 
  4. Cultivate grateful optimism.  When I think about our problems, the first thing that strikes me is that almost every problem we have is created by the abundance and wide range of choices we have to make.  Our paleolithic ancestors didn’t have to paint the cave nor think about which restaurant served the best mammoth steak.  We need to be grateful for what we have and what it allows us to do.   If we focus on the blessing rather than the problem, we’ll power through the situation with calm confidence. 

Over-reaction is one of people’s greatest day-to-day problems.  Over-reaction is different from worry, which is more of a state of mind.  Over-reaction is taking action, when instead we need to think, remember and create a plan of action.

A fundamental guiding question that I ask myself is, “Is what I’m overreacting to that interrupts my day and drives everyone around me crazy going to be something I remember tomorrow?”  The answer is probably not.  Then there is a second fundamental question: “Am I addicted to over-reaction?  Do I have to over-react to act at all?”  Many people are addicted to the rush of over-reaction—the fuel of the reaction powers your day.   If over-reaction powers your day, you need to switch fuel sources.  Over-reaction wears out the fabric of life and keeps us from taking bold, dynamic, intelligent action that takes us to the top.  Be calm, think, and stay in a problem-solving mode—it will change your life.

Delta, Inc now offers Life Coaching as well as executive coaching by trained professional advisors who provide a voice that understands your hopes, dreams, and aspirations.  We work with you to achieve solutions for professional and life issue to change your life and take you to a different place.  Contact Carol Kallendorf, PhD, or Jack Speer.  512-417-9428.

Austin, Texas

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Carol Kallendorf, PhD. | (512) 417-9756 

Jack Speer | (512) 417-9428


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