As someone with perfectionist tendencies, I’ve often been bothered when things don’t go as I want them to. Whether there’s unexpected traffic slowing me down or I cut myself while chopping vegetables, it’s common for my heart to start beating faster as my irritation rises. If something goes awry, I tend to get flustered; if I make a mistake, I get exasperated with myself.

In the past few months, I’ve begun to take mishaps in stride, in large part because of a couple of silly, seemingly insignificant jokes between Darren and me. They’ve helped me laugh off any little annoyances before they escalate into frustration. I’d like to share them in case they’re helpful to you, too.

1. “Ohhh Noooo!”

Recently, things that used to upset me have become funny, because they give me the opportunity to use my favorite catch phrase. It’s from the Saturday Night Live parody of Dateline host Keith Morrison, who has a knack for dramatizing — and perhaps even taking pleasure in — the unpleasant events he is reporting. (See Bill Hader’s brilliant impression in the video above.)

Every time I realize that the house is a mess, or I stub my toe for the tenth time in a week, I smile ghoulishly with wide eyes and say, “Ohhh nooo….I’m horrrrified,” in the nasal voice of the impression. It started as a running joke between Darren and me, but I’ve realized how much it actually helps me diffuse tension. I’ve used it dozens of times, and it still makes me laugh.

2. “That is sooo 2008.”

On New Year’s Day, I found myself stressed out by the prospect of all I had to do in the coming weeks and talked to Darren about it. He said, “Hey, it’s the new year. Stressing out about to-do lists? That is so 2008.” Now I find myself repeating the phrase all the time, especially when I’m annoyed at myself for bad habits I keep trying to break. Waking up anxious at 5:30 a.m.? So 2008. Throwing my clothes on the floor instead of hanging them up? Soooo 2008. I like to roll my eyes (a habit that I perfected as a teenager) while saying this, for effect.

Next time you get rattled, try saying one of these silly phrases to yourself. Or find one of your own, and make it an inside joke with a friend or partner if you can. You may be surprised at how something so simple can whisk away the stress.

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What are catch phrases or quotes that you use to diffuse tension? (They can be silly or serious.)

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