OPINION

OPINION | Low-level irritants can be a clip off the old mental block

I used my first pair of nail clippers only about three years ago.

No, I wasn't gunning for the longest fingernails in history. (You should check that out by the way - gross, but also awesome.)

It's just that I grew up using nail scissors, not clippers, and it never occurred to me to change.

This despite the fact that I despise long nails, while being blessed with ones that are super-strong and grow really fast - I mean, they're so tough I can't even chew them off.

So I had to buy heavy-duty nail scissors that still mangled them if the blades were only a little blunt.

Nail clippers, as I discovered by chance, are far more effective. Why had I never tried them?

It was like I had a mental roadblock - I just gave it no thought at all.

The system in place was unsatisfactory, but the matter was just too trivial to occupy any part of my strategic brain space, meaning low-level irritation every week or so.

I wonder if we gathered up all the low-level irritants in our lives and just dealt with them, how much difference would it make to our state of mind?

I wonder if we gathered up all the low-level irritants in our lives and just dealt with them, how much difference would it make to our state of mind?

I reckon a surprising amount.

I'm not talking about the little (or big) things in our lives that can't be easily changed and we ought to just cope with.

But rather those small annoying things we don't bother to address, but can really build up.

The broken door handle, the uncomfortable shoes, the rug that daily traverses the floor by magic until it sits at an angle. (Okay, that last one might just be me.)

Most of us could rattle off a list of things that annoy us every time we encounter them; all of them completely fixable but most of them not urgent enough to claim our time or energy.

They are the traffic hum of daily life.

Yes, you get used to it, almost to the point of not consciously hearing it, but that doesn't mean it's not affecting you.

Studies have repeatedly shown that constant background noise is associated with higher incidence of depression, anxiety and heart conditions.

Of course, one person's bugbear will be completely off someone else's radar, meaning we won't necessarily smooth the path for others when fixing it for ourselves.

For example, I hate television advertising so much that it has been known to drive me out of the room. But if I am in there and my husband has the remote I have to shout, "Mute!" every ad break.

We've been married over 23 years.

Yes, it's annoying for both of us (the ad situation, not the marriage).

You'd think it could be easily solved - give me the remote (well, that's my solution) - but my husband 'needs' it to cruise channels (also annoying, especially with the sound on).

Meanwhile, he apparently finds it irritating when I let the dog sleep on his pillow when I'm reading in bed. I know, crazy, right?

There's even a psychological tool called the Daily Hassles Scale that measures the stress generated by such things as waiting in line and losing your keys.

Maybe we should all make our own list of pet peeves to put on a personal Daily Hassles Scale, then keep track.

When we hit a certain number, it's time to bow out and go to bed.

Then we can finally get some rest. There's nothing irritating about a nice cup of tea and a book in bed, especially with the dog snuggled up next to you on the pillow.