Don’t Tell Me Not to Sweat the Small Stuff




“Don’t sweat the small stuff”?

Dude, I’m damp. I am sweating all the small stuff. It’s what I do.

Please don’t tell me how small the stuff is (I know this) and how, when it comes down to it, it’s all small stuff (it can’t all be small), and not to sweat any of it (now I need a towel) because all you are doing is stressing me the hell right out.

There is strain, tension, external pressure in our lives. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have it.

We all react differently, of course, but it seems that those who tend to feel uncomfortable about this are vilified by those who do not.

When people stress, we are often told to “relax” or “take it easy”. Yet, when someone does not stress, we don’t tell them to “get upset” or “freak out”.

How is this fair?

When people announce how laid-back they are, it’s annoying. I mean, I can either see that you are or I can see that you’re trying to convince me (or yourself) that you are. Either way, it’s unnecessary information.

If you don’t mind, skip the pleasantries and just get the salt shaker and start pouring it into the wound. It is patronizing to tell someone who is distressed to “calm down”.

It’s so incredibly wonderful that people can be calm, cool, and collected in the face of a stressful situation. It’s good for their health and lovely for those around them.

I recognize that this works for a lot of people. What I’d absolutely love is for them to realize not everyone has the ability to do that.

And, as far as I know, people don’t enjoy being stressed.

Next time you see someone in distress, instead of telling them to “lighten up”, try asking them “what’s up?”


How many times has, “Just calm down” worked for you or, rather, for the person you’re saying it to? Do they calm down? If so, is it immediate? Be honest here…has it ever worked?


53 thoughts on “Don’t Tell Me Not to Sweat the Small Stuff

  1. I was starting to shake when I was reading through your post, Sarah. Yes, it makes me cross too! Just like people saying “Smile” or “Cheer up, it can’t be that bad”. How the hell would they know. Yes, definitely ask, “Can I help?” “Would you like to talk?” Don’t sweat is always easy for someone to say when a sense of perspective, and empathy, is lacking. How are you anyway? Hugs across the waters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh! “Smile” and “Cheer up”… Yes, I forgot those winners. You said it. This often stems from a lack of empathy and/or perspective. But if someone doesn’t want to offer help, that’s fine – they can walk away instead of possibly doing more damage.

      I don’t understand the people who have been telling others for many years to “calm down” and see that it doesn’t work yet continue to say it anyway. I think, in certain situations, it’s not meant to be mean but sometimes it is said with such superiority, such a lack of respect… That is what infuriates me.

      Thank you. Hope you are doing well. Sending hugs back across the waters. 💗

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it is lack of understanding. If we smile, or calm down, or whatever, then there is nothing for them to deal with. You are right, why can’t they just walk away if they don’t want to deal with it. The world doesn’t always work in a way to suit them. Or us unfortunately! Take care. xx

        Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! Shouting that at me would definitely get my attention. Just not in a good way. A conversation can (or can not) be had. That’s always nice but, I think, it’s the initial response and the respect given to someone who may not be able to calm down on demand.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well “calm down!” Has worked for me (followed by “so we can talk about this”) when I’ve dealt with stressed people on the verge of violence. I see your point that it is disrespectful, condescending really, but sometimes one may need to come off as superior, especially if there’s a weapon involved, so that a violent person might think twice before (things and people get broken).

        Liked by 1 person

      • OH, I think all bets are off if there is a danger of violence and/or a weapon involved. The need to come off as superior or authoritative is necessary in certain situations. We don’t want anyone getting hurt. I was referring to simple situations where friends/family/co-workers judge or belittle or dismiss someone for feeling a certain way.


  2. Being told to “calm down” only gets me more agitated. It makes me feel like they don’t understand what it is I’m going through. Now, if things are laid out before me, eventually I calm down because I would have thought about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eventually, sure, we calm down. In our time. But not because someone is shouting at us or rolling their eyes. I think, like you said, it often has the opposite effect and causes people to become more agitated.


    • Or… If people don’t feel like asking and getting into it, they can remain quiet. That’s good, too. 🙂 Right. No matter what the president does, people will complain. He can’t sneeze without someone complaining about it. That’s part of the job description.


    • Holy crap. Seriously, I’m not even sure what to say about this. That’s so patronizing. And wicked helpful. “Oh! Look at that! Suddenly, I’m all better. Thank goodness you were here to tell me to calm down.”


    • Ah. Well, I agree completely about everyone being more accepting of other people’s emotions. But I think that if people can’t handle stress, they should walk away instead of being mean. Also, a “request” is VERY different from shouting or rolling eyes. I suppose this is all in the context of the situation and in the tone.


      • Looking back at this, I suspect I put that badly, Sarah. What I meant there was that, very often, the people who can’t handle someone else’s stress need to get a handle on their own emotions before they start firing off at others. And I’m afraid to say that I have been guilty of that myself.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ooh… *cringe* Yes. I can see that. And have seen that. I was referring to the “look-how-calm-and-cool-I-am”, “you-are-flipping-out”, “you-can’t-handle-things-as-you’re-supposed-to”, “you-should-be-more-like-me” types. You know the ones. 😉


  3. Once upon a time I had a very stressful job with tight deadlines and sometimes it was overwhelming.

    I was fortunate enough to work with a wonderful woman who, whenever she saw my stress level rising, would simply place a small chocolate or a cookie on my desk. It made me laugh, and I loved her for that.

    So when you see a cryptic Tweet from me, this is the story behind it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha! I misread that as ‘wonder woman’. But, as it is, that wasn’t really a mistake after all. What an amazing lady. (There is much love for the chocolate/cookie woman.) ❤ And for you, my sweet friend. I'll look for cryptic tweets. It will be like a secret handshake. Except better.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. When people tell me to just “calm down” it usually makes me more angry/upset/distressed. It’s not helpful. What is, as you say, is asking what’s wrong. I’ve been told to “calm down” by people who don’t understand that maybe a small thing to them is a big thing to me. And by someone who was belittling what I was going through. It can be said in many different ways, none helpful, in my experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. Not only is this not helpful, it often backfires and makes the situation worse. Good point. It’s patronizing but also trivializing what another person is going through. Tone and intent are extremely important but it’s often just not a helpful/kind thing to say.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You know, this triggered a memory for me. My son, age 2, was throwing a tantrum and I was trying to get him to stop screaming his head off. Somewhere, off to the side, I heard my husband say, “You know, I don’t think telling him to calm down is helping any. In fact, he seems to scream louder every time you say that.”

    I don’t think I really say it to anyone except my children, and even then it’s because I want them to stop screaming/crying enough to tell me what the heck is wrong. I’m usually oblivious to anyone else’s distress. Or I’m oblivious to my use of those words. Or maybe both? Hmmm. Maybe this is why people don’t come to me when they’re distressed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do often say this to children, don’t we? That may have something to do with it feeling condescending. But, as you’ve so artfully demonstrated, it doesn’t always work with children, either. Sorry but this scene had me giggling a bit. (Translation: laughing out loud.)

      So you’re not the go-to gal? Eh, you’ve got numerous other qualities that make you a fab friend. Oblivious or not. 😉


  6. Telling me to calm down is usually a good way of helping me redirect my frustration at the thing I can’t control to the person offering such “sage” advice. I suppose if I was in more of my right mind during such times I should thank them for allowing me the opportunity to regain control of the situation in some small fashion, but I don’t know they would appreciate my thanks just then.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve generated a lot of nods of agreement here, Sarah, as you often do.
    I wouldn’t ever want to proselytise, but I have to say that therapy is a good way of understanding those supposedly small sweats – if it works well, they could get bigger in the process of exploring them, but some will eventually become genuinely small.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been thinking about this some more. I think there are often big sweats behind our small sweats, which is why they’re not really small. The added complication is that one person’s sweats may feed into the other’s big sweats that they find difficult to face, hence the apparent lack of empathy.
      I had a friend who got angry about similarly small matters, but I wasn’t able to be supportive because I hadn’t dealt with my own fear of anger.
      Regarding sweats of the physical type, it’s unseasonably hot here right now so I might need to borrow your towel.

      Liked by 1 person

    • True. Therapy can help with those “small” issues which, as you say, will get worse before they get better. And some things are small. But some things are not.

      I completely agree that, sometimes, there is a larger issue behind why we react strongly to smaller issues (as well as the added complication of people feeding off each other’s fears, anxieties, or simple pet peeves). In that case, it is difficult, if not impossible, to be supportive. My suggestion then is to walk away instead of belittle which people often wind up doing.

      *hands you towel* Care for some iced tea? Lemonade?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Relaxing or taking it easy is sometimes possible, other times mandatory, but not universal. We’re human and feel. Like you say, no matter where you are, someone may have an issue with your particular amount of stress at any given time.

    When I do see someone distressed, I do try and calm the person down because I know the damage intense short bursts of stress can do and how bad long term stress can be as well. But it’s not an order, I just try to help that person get to a better place because more often than not, there can be a possible solution but being ballistic won’t help matters most times.

    Not everyone is the same and sometimes you don’t even need to give a solution sometimes people need to vent that life is shit and to have someone care in addition to listening.

    Like you say, always better to ask what’s up? We’re all wired differently but a better place is often there.

    Just calm down, works for me when I order myself because being distraught can keep breaking me. For me, I don’t like to be a burden to others so when I see someone worrying, I try to get my shit together for that reason.

    Btw, Fun fact, I have an essay called some small stuff should be sweated in my bilingual collection, that was pretty cool. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • “We’re human and feel.” That. ❤

      No, it's not healthy. It's not fun. It's not anything good, really. But, sometimes, it can't be helped. Trying to calm someone is not being patronizing. It really is in the context/tone. And, if you're telling yourself, that is a completely different ball of wax. I like your thoughts on a better place always being there.

      I'd love to read that essay. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think at the heart of being told to “calm down” is a lack of validation. On one of my worst days homeless, Todd’s brother chose that moment to text me to ask how to contact the VA (because he wants to maximize his retirement). When I told him our plight, he texted, “Chin up!” I wanted to crawl through the digital space and punch him. The lack of empathy robs us of our reaction to our reality. There is no one way to react, but certainly telling someone they are wrong in their reaction does more harm than good. I love your last line, wise, caring and validating: “Next time you see someone in distress, instead of telling them to “lighten up”, try asking them “what’s up?””

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Chin up!” ??? O_o Wow. Telling someone to calm down is bad enough but the chin up/lighten up comments are just rude. Yes, “lack of empathy robs us of our reaction to reality.” It tells us that we are wrong. However we’re feeling is wrong. But, like you said, everyone reacts differently. “There is no one way to react…” Validation, respect, empathy…these are all needed. Hugs. ❤


  10. I remember a movie where a couple was saying to the widow (who was 30) “Just let us know what we can do.” The widow said, “Help me clean up.”
    The couple froze and stuttered out the door because they already had a way they thought they could help, and it wasn’t through manual labor. In the next scene, the widow turns around and sees two of her friends silently, without asking or being asked, cleaning up after the wake. I think it might take experience and true friendship to know what to say at the right time. I must say, when you can’t think of anything else, go with Petal and Mortar’s “Stress Blows Through Me Like A Hollow Reed.” Ha

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is spectacular. What movie? It might take friendship, it’s true. But, otherwise, it would be great to just not interfere in a negative way. Or I might just shout in someone’s face, “Aaarrggh! Stress Blows Through Me Like A Hollow Reed!”


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