Job loss, the death of a spouse, being diagnosed with chronic disease. These are all extreme stressors that can lead someone toward depression, and definitely shorten their lives. But when it comes to old age, it’s the smaller things that will get you, according to a new study published in the journal Experimental Gerontology.

Every day we’re faced with small stressors that can either make or break our day. Delayed train rides, spilt coffee on a white shirt, or a broken heel are just some examples. When these things happen, we have the choice of either moving on (“nothing’s bringing my happiness down!”) or letting it affect our mood for the rest of the day.

The new study, led by Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, found that older men who did the latter were more likely to die earlier. Stress causes a bunch of harmful, and sometimes unconscious effects in our body, from anger and crying to stomach problems, increased heart rate, and substance abuse.

For Aldwin’s study, her team looked at data from the Veteran’s Affairs Normative Aging Study, examining not only stressful life events among 1,293 men who participated between 1989 and 2005, but also the smaller everyday hassles they encountered. After following these men until 2010, and adjusting for age and health conditions, they found that only about 29 percent of those who could smile through their problems had died. Meanwhile, 64 percent of men who cried over the smaller things died.

“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems,” Aldwin said in a press release. “Taking things in stride may protect you.”

It all comes down to how you cope with stress, a difficult thing to do when that’s all that consumes your mind. There are ways to cope healthily, however, such as exercising, committing to a healthier diet, listening to music, and getting outdoors (preferably into a park or the woods). Of course, getting used to a routine with these habits takes time, but that’s OK because stress’s effect on the body does, too.

With dedication and self-awareness, the mind can overcome any setback, and put you on the path to a longer life.

Source: Alswin C, jeong Y-J, Igarashi H, Choun S, Ill AS. Do hassles mediate between life events and mortality in older men?: Longitudinal findings from the VA Normative Aging Study. Experimental Gerontology. 2014.