Reality vs Perception- It’s Really Hard to Tell the Difference

glass                                                                 Or is it half empty?

The past few weeks have been difficult, I will not lie, moving is just stressful. I can honestly say I have cried every day this week so far, which is actually my normal reaction when I am stressed or anxious. I have found that everyone who deals with anxiety has “panic attacks” that manifest themselves in different ways. When I am anxious or panicky I often break down in tears, another friend of mine gets nauseous and shaky, and still another friend I know will get short of breath and have heart palpitations. Everyone experiences anxiety in different ways…but I digress.

Most, if not all of my anxiety is caused by my negative and or irrational thought processes. For example, when I decided to leave my job and move across the country to Alaska (no I am not there yet! I leave Saturday!) I had to put in my two weeks notice. This is what an irrational, negative, thought pattern is like: “Oh man, I really am not looking forward to my supervisor seeing that two weeks notice letter, oh God everyone at work is going to hate me for leaving them in such a lurch, my supervisor is going to freak out, oh my God and everyone is going to ask me questions and I’m going to have to explain myself and everyone is going to judge me. I just want to get this over with”. This was my perception of what was going to happen (also called fortune-telling) when I put in my two weeks notice and when you have anxiety that is not under control your thoughts tend to spiral downward into a never ending loop of negative thoughts. This, in turn, can lead to depression and it is a slippery slope.

So, what was the reality? What actually happened? What actually happened was that my supervisor found my two weeks notice letter, was quite sad, but then was really happy and excited for me. Everyone else in the office was excited for me too and wished me the best of luck.

All too often our perception of how an event did occur or will occur is not based in reality. It is often negative and makes us believe that if anything happens to us it probably won’t be good. Sometimes this type of thinking is grounded in past realities. Maybe you don’t think this relationship will work out because you have only ever been dumped by significant others and it always ended horrifically, maybe you were emotionally or physically abused as a child so you are always wary and are waiting for the “other shoe to drop”. What we have experienced in the past most certainly shapes who we are and how we think and react in life, however, we do not have to let it keep controlling how we think.

This morning, I woke up, found a rubber band and put it on my wrist. I spoke with a woman once who told me that she quit smoking by attending these classes where they gave you a rubber band, told you to put it on your wrist and at any time you felt like smoking to snap the rubber band. I certainly do not know if this is scientifically sound or driven by any convincing data, however, the *snap* of the rubber band makes you aware of your thoughts. Every time I have had a negative thought about myself or my future today I grabbed the rubber band and *snap*. What is more important than the *snap* though is what must follow it: a positive thought. By becoming aware of my negative thoughts and then changing it to a positive one I am creating a new pathway for my brain to take. Instead of the never ending loop of: stressful event or worry- negative thought-negative thought-negative thought, this creates a stop in that loop. Instead it goes: stressful event or worry-negative thought- *snap*-positive thought. PEOPLE, YOU CAN LITERALLY TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO DO ANYTHING! IT WAS SPECIFICALLY CREATED TO LEARN NEW THINGS!

So, that is where I am at this week…snapping rubber bands, packing, trying not to be anxious, and instead being happy (trying). I hope this has been helpful and if anyone has other ways they have “trained” their brains please let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading,

❤ Rachael

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