The 5 By 5 Rule To Reduce Stress, Anxiety And Worry
I’ve been described by my friends as the calmest person ever and I must admit, I rarely give a moment of worry to anything. What’s my secret to staying stress-free you ask? It’s the 5 by 5 rule.
What Is The 5 By 5 Rule?
The 5 by 5 Rule: If it’s not gonna matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset by it.
The 5 by 5 rule states that if you come across an issue take a moment to think whether or not it will matter in 5 years. If it won’t, don’t spend more than 5 minutes stressing out about it.
If something won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes stressing, worrying, or feeling anxious about it. It’s that simple.
How The 5 by 5 Rule Works
There are 2 reasons why the 5×5 rule works:
Long Term Perspective
The 5 by 5 rule allows you a moment to put the experience in the context of the next 5 years. By thinking long term giving yourself some much-needed distance from the issue at hand.
How many times have you been distracted from a stressful moment, only to come back and realize you were overthinking things?
The truth is very few stressors that most people deal with on a day-to-day basis will actually matter in 5 hours, let alone 5 years.
Feel Your Feelings
The 5×5 rule also works by allowing you to spend a few minutes really feeling your feelings. When you immediately try to push frustrating emotions away, they only build up further.
What you resist persists, remember?
Spending up to five minutes processing what you’re feeling and why in most cases gives you enough time to accept the situation and realize that you can’t change it.
Why You Should Use The 5 by 5 Rule
We spend an enormous amount of time stressing, worrying, being anxious, and even upset about things in our day-to-day lives… And let’s face it, the vast majority of those things are rather trivial.
For example, someone cuts you off in traffic and honks at you. It’s not your fault at all but now you’re upset about the injustice of it all, maybe a little embarrassed… maybe you did make a mistake and it was your fault. You’re in a bad mood and you tell people at work about it, you go home and tell your family about it… a whole day potentially ruined, continually reliving the experience and emotions.
The alternative would be that you use the 5×5 rule. You take 5 minutes, feel your emotions, and then ask yourself: Will this matter in 5 years? You realize it won’t and you let go of the emotions and continue with your day feeling good.
Let’s look at another scenario, shall we?
Let’s say that you’re running 15 minutes late for work. Your mind takes over and starts imagining all the negative outcomes. You’re stressing. You’re panicking.
Again, you can use the 5 by 5 rule and ask yourself will being 15 minutes late matter in 5 years? Most likely not, right?
You realize you will not lose your job, you will not be cut 15 minutes of pay and you will not be struggling to pay the bills.
When I was 26 years old, my “dream business” failed and I was $70,000 in debt. My confidence and self-esteem took a big hit, but was I stressed? Was I upset?
I must admit, I did shed some tears.
At the time I wasn’t so well versed with the 5 by 5 rule but I asked myself this question:
Will this matter in 5 years?
The answer was no.
When I took the time to think things through I knew I could pay off the debt within 5 years. I knew that if I really wanted to do that business again I could, even better this time because of all the experience I had gained.
The biggest failure of my life and I was okay within a few hours. I have since learned to use the 5 by 5 rule and spend no longer than 5 minutes being upset about things, especially things I can no longer change.
It is really funny how little a problem becomes when you think that far into the future.
You’re Choosing To Suffer For Longer
5 minutes may seem like a short amount of time to process things and be upset and it’s important to remember this is a skill to learn and apply. In the beginning, it may take you a little longer.
The most important reason for living by the 5 by 5 rule is that you choose not to suffer for longer.
According to Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, “Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”
Taylor goes on to state, “It is our choice whether we master and assert self-control and patiently wait out the 90 seconds while the emotion intensifies, dissolves and then passes. Or, whether we allow it to cause an inferno in our minds so that it powerfully gains momentum until it eventually rages inside us.”
Let’s say you think back to a bad experience from the past. The emotion could pass in 90 seconds if you allow it to. The problem is that most people are experts at prolonging negative emotions by continuously thinking about the experience, listening to triggering music, looking at pictures and so forth.
Another big problem with this is that the more we think of memories in a negative emotional state, we actually “color” the memory in a different way. Over time we actually change the memory to be even more negative than it may have been. This only serves to perpetuate a negative cycle.
The reverse is also true. If you are feeling really happy. If you’re in a good place within yourself and you think of an old bad experience, first of all, it’s pretty hard to do. Secondly, you’ll begin to see things differently.
You think your past defines you, and worse, you think that it is an unchangeable reality, when really, your perception of it changes as you do.
Learning Acceptance Is Key
When you take 5 minutes and realize that the worry or stressor will not affect you in 5 years, it’s time to let it go. This is where acceptance becomes important.
Acceptance is a word that many of us struggle with when it comes to negative events in our lives. Often, we feel that if we accept something negative, it means that we are condoning it, we are OK with it, or we are agreeing with something.
However, that is not the case, when we choose to accept something, it means that we acknowledge that it is a fact.
When we accept something as a fact, whether it is or not, we can then take action to change things, to change “our reality”. You can’t do that if you keep denying it.
When we refuse to accept things as reality, that keeps us in a place in a place of suffering.
As Hal Elrod says, “Every negative emotion that we ever feel is self-created. Every negative emotion is self-created by our level of resistance to our reality. So think about that. When something bad happens, to the degree that we wish and want it were different is the degree that we create emotional pain for ourselves.”
Listen, I know this seems hard. I understand you may have suffered severe trauma, sexual abuse, failure, rejection, embarrassment, betrayal… And I don’t expect you to be done with it in 5 minutes.
The point I’m trying to make here is that as soon as you accept that it has happened. That bad stuff happened to you and that you can’t change the past, the sooner the suffering stops.
The only reason to continue suffering is that you are gaining some benefit in the process… some type of pleasure… attention etc.
I’d recommend you check out The 5 Minute Rule to master acceptance.
Summary: The 5 by 5 Rule
The 5 by 5 rule is an excellent technique to make a habit in your daily life. It will significantly reduce the amount of stress, worry and anxiety you experience on a daily basis.
Remember, if it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset about it.
Put up reminders of the 5×5 rule at home, the office, or anywhere where you see it daily.
The next time you notice that you are having an emotional response to a stressor in your life, try out the 5 by 5 rule and see how it works for you.