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Don't sweat it
Jan. 28, 2013
by Jenni Sebora

I have been talking with my students lately about dealing with change and making choices. Both of these can certainly involve stress.

The students that I work with are young adults. With adulthood comes more responsibilities, and, of course, change. This can be difficult for anyone, but especially for someone who has a disability that really impacts emotional and social skills.

One young woman in particular has a difficult time with quick changes, and, in turn, her emotions rise to a level of urgency with these changes.

We have been talking about evaluating the level of urgency. She recently was reacting to a situation in which she felt like she had made a mistake. Her level of response and emotion was quite high.

I asked her to take a deep breath. After the situation was dealt with, she and I sat down.

Our conversation began with me telling her that we need to evaluate the urgency of our emergencies. She is a bright young woman so I spoke to her as an adult. I asked her if she knew what I meant.

Her response: “Yeah, don’t sweat the small stuff.”

I appreciated her very real, to-the-point response, and said, “That’s it.”

The next day, as a group we were again talking about dealing with change and choices, and I asked her what she thought when we were reviewing the discussion.

She said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” She smiled. I smiled. Yep, that’s it.

There certainly can be moments when situations can rise to the level of emergency. However, I believe, for each of us, those are quite limited. Even when our situations rise to that level, we need to keep our emotions in check. Dealing with situations with as calm a demeanor as we can will – at the least – not heighten the situation.

Does that mean we can’t be excited about things, or sad, or mad about things? Certainly not. It is healthy to relay our feelings and discuss them. To do so in a productive manner is certainly the healthiest.

One day, this particular student called me at school and said that the bus was late and had not picked her up yet. This caused her stress. I asked her if this was a situation she could control.

She indicated, “No.” This was out of her control.

I told her, she had done what she could. She had called the school. The bus arriving late was not something she could control, so take a deep breath and relax. She did, and I was very proud of her.

She decided then that she could call the transportation department. She did. They were on their way.

If there is a situation involving change, we can stop and evaluate it. Is there something we can do about it? If there is not, take a deep breath. If there is, calmly determine what choices we have to deal with the situation. If there are different choices for a solution, evaluate the ease and familiarity of the choices.

If there is a choice that is easier for us or is more familiar and it will work, go with that choice, and then accept it. Go with it.

I have learned to deal with what are stressful situations for myself using these steps, as well. I try to teach these same strategies to my own children, as well as the students I work with.

Change can be certainly welcome at times, but it may also be stressful. Putting it into perspective and taking each step at a time will not only help us get through the change, but embrace it.


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