That Sinking Feeling

by Eric Sudler, M.S.

Things have been going well as of late which is a great change of pace from seemingly constant stress. For the first time in a long time, I feel somewhat in control. Not 100%, of course, but in control enough to function. Financially, I’m not lighting up cigars with $100 bills, but for the time being, I’m not feeling the constant stress of deadlines and that scary feeling of not knowing how exactly I’m going to make ends meet. Academically and professionally, I am in a place where I feel confident about the future.

So what’s the problem? Well…. I’m the problem. You see, it seemed like things were so hectic for so long that I kind of just accepted it as reality. It just kind of seemed like this was how it was going to be, which ultimately affected my thoughts, in turn dictating my behavior and perspective on situations. The result of this negative thinking is that I am not able to fully enjoy what I‘ve been presented with: peace of mind… or at least temporary peace of mind. It does not come often, so I would prefer to enjoy it while I can.

It’s so easy to accept the reality with which we are presented. And of course I know how therapeutically important Acceptance is, but Acceptance is a double-edged sword. Blithely accepting a situation without rationally challenging it first isn’t always healthy. It can actually lead you farther off course in terms of your goal. In some cases, you could actually be moving backwards. When this happens we actually create more mental barriers to get through in order to move forward again. In my situation, it replaced what could have been an insouciant, relaxing feeling with one of impending doom or that sinking feeling one gets when they expect the worst. However, I am currently looking for the worst because of my own irrational acceptance of my previous situation. Now that it has changed for the better, it is taking my mind longer to adjust. It is, therefore, important to maintain a rational and positive outlook even through the bad times.

How do we do that? If it were easy, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. We can maintain rationality by challenging our beliefs with some tried and true self-monitoring questions:

Is this thinking/behavior helping me to move closer or farther away from my goal for this situation?
Where is it written that it has to be (or not be) this way?
Have I ever been in a similar or even worse situation where things got better?
If these questions do not help or if you are experiencing difficulty gaining this eye-opening insight, please do not hesitate to consult a friend, family member, or mental health professional. In the end it’ll be worth it so you can enjoy the gift of a clear mind instead of constantly looking over your shoulder because of that sinking feeling that doom shortly awaits.

So be mindful of what you’re telling yourself about your situations. Try to maintain rational thought through the good times and the bad. Current situations are just that: current. They are usually not permanent. Do not let them define you or drastically alter your thinking or outlook on life. No matter what it is, you have the strength to get through it. If you didn’t have the strength to overcome tough obstacles, you would have crumbled under the pressure and ceased to exist. So if you’re still in existence and reading this right now, you must be strong enough.

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