Perception Shift Can Help Reduce Stress

I was having one of those days. You know, when everything around you seems to be caving in. Between my workload, family, social commitments, laundry, yard work, and home reno projects, my plate was overflowing and I was super stressed out. The last thing I had time for was cleaning up after my kids and dog. I was feeling overwhelmed and emotionally defeated. As I said, I was having one of those days.

But then, between picking up dirty socks and soccer cleats, and noticing the mud on the sliding glass door from the dog, I had an ‘Ah-Ha’ moment (thanks, Oprah) or an ‘Arcane Glimpse of the Universe’ (Reality Bites–I use this one a lot). I thought to myself, my perception of what my house is supposed to be is making me stressed. Someone with a different perception might not be stressed about this at all. I became highly aware that there isn’t just one way things need to be done in order to feel happy. I had this moment where my perception shifted. It was like I put on rose-colored glasses and saw the world differently.

I became self-aware of MY perception of how things need to be in order for me to feel happy and fulfilled, and I was able to clearly see that there’s more than one way to perceive things on an emotional level.

Since then, I try to pay attention to why certain things stress me out versus other things that don’t. The things that stress me out are usually due to an emotional connection. For example, I like my house to have order. All things have their place, and that’s where I like them to be. It’s easier to find what I’m looking for and reduces visual clutter. But it’s also tied to my childhood. My parents were divorced when I was 10 years old, which was traumatic for me and my brother. My life felt out of control, so I found ways to gain control back any way I could. One of those ways was cleaning my room and my house. By doing so I was keeping things in order. It made me feel safe. My perception of how things need to be for my happiness became my reality.

Fast forward today, I live with a husband and daughter who don’t have a problem with disorganization and clutter. It’s like they don’t even see it. Our perceptions don’t align. I’ve gotten better at accepting that my perception isn’t the same as theirs (luckily my son and I see eye-to-eye on organizing—LOL) and I have good days—or weeks or months until something triggers me and I feel like a ticking time bomb about to go off! It’s in those moments of stress and frustration that I remind myself to shift my perception. I acknowledge that my way isn’t the only way to do things. I acknowledge that no one intended to piss me off. I breathe deep and say to myself, “What difference does it make if [fill in the blank].” I try to understand that there are emotional reasons for why my husband and daughter do what THEY do, just like me. I try to understand that there’s always another way to look at things. Perceiving the world around you in a different way than you normally do can help reduce your stress because it forces you to deal with your emotions. You become more aware of your emotional triggers and understand that it’s emotions that drive your perceptions.

I think it’s important to mention that changing your perception doesn’t mean changing who you are and what matters to you. Bending to another person’s perception to make them happy while sacrificing your own happiness isn’t the goal here. It’s about connecting with the emotions that steer your perceptions. This acknowledgment can alleviate stress by shifting your emotions from “fight or flight” to more even-tempered, reasonable feelings that can be addressed more easily, either with yourself or with someone else.

There’s a saying: Perception is reality. Everyone’s perception is different therefore everyone lives in different realities. I know that may sound like a sci-fi movie but it’s true. Sure, there’s common ground that most of us agree on, and that’s how, for the most part, humans get along. But anyone who’s ever lived with another person—a roommate, spouse, child, parent—will tell you that people have their “ways.” Their ways are different from your ways. What matters to them may not matter to you—like having a clean house (wink). We don’t live in a bubble. We share our reality with others. Shifting your perception can not only reduce stress in your life, but it can also bring you closer to those you love, it can open you up to learning new things, and exercise empathy in your heart.


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