When I was growing up, there were a couple of things that I believed to be rites of passage for everyone. One was I thought everyone doesn’t escape their childhood without a broken bone. I’m not sure where that idea came from, but it isn’t true….at all. But I remember wondering when I would break a bone. Weird, huh? Here’s another one: I believed that at one point in everyone’s life, a snake will get into the house and you have to deal with it. I remember a neighbor here and there had to get someone to get a snake out of the house. In Texas, we do have to deal with snakes from time to time. I am not the biggest fan (read just a bit terrified) of snakes.
Since I still live in Texas, I enjoy living in denial that snakes are a regular occurrence, especially in the summertime. There’s a neighborhood app that I have and occasionally peruse to see what’s going on. I don’t look at this app very often. For one thing, there are MANY posts about snakes that my neighbors have found in their yard or garage or what have you. Just the other day, I was looking on the app and started reading all the snake posts (and just in case we didn’t believe it, some even posted pictures). There were posts of people willing to come to your house and help. There were posts to be careful and check your garage and bathrooms. I was beginning to feel quite scared of snakes in my house. I was looking everywhere, and half expecting to see a snake. Five minutes before reading the posts on the neighborhood app, I was fine….relaxed and calm. Five minutes after….anxious and nervous and having trouble focusing. NOTHING changed in the circumstances, just my thinking. Here are my takeaways from my experience.
- When anxious or nervous thoughts show up, notice how much was because of thinking. In my case (and I suspect in most of our cases), it was ALL from my thinking. I’ve lived in this particular house for over 5 years. No snakes in the house, garage, or even yard (I even asked my husband if he’d ever seen one when he mowed and he said he had not).
- Take a moment to soothe your mind. If something spooks us, we have activated the part of the brain that is beneficial in actual moments of danger. It is natural to become startled in certain situations (think of the tail poof that happens when cats hear a noise). We NEED that part of our brain to be activated at times—it gives us the superpowers we are equipped to have in actual danger (fight or flight, which you are likely familiar with). But when our “tail poofs” because of harmless noises or even thoughts, we need to take a moment to soothe and calm our minds.
- If we are struggling to soothe our minds, it might be helpful to come up with a plan. If our fear has some basis in reality (such as living in Texas and snakes do happen), come up with a plan. When I was a kid and convinced that a snake getting in the house was going to happen at some point, I came up with a plan. My parents helped me with this. If I was home alone, which happened at times as I became a pre-teen and teen, they helped me identify two neighbors I could go ask to help get the snake out of the house. When I was feeling nervous after reading the neighborhood app, I came up with a good plan. I would save two of the numbers mentioned in the neighborhood app of people willing to help. I also could enlist the help of my son (who was home at the time). Interestingly, my first thought was to gather my cats so they wouldn’t antagonize the snake, but such is the life with fur babies.
I did calm down about snakes. I was sure they were about to invade my home. The reason they were invading was simply that I had read about a couple of neighbors who had seen snakes around their homes. Irrational thoughts happen. Our job is to notice them and learn from them, hopefully without too much spinning out of control.
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