How You Can Use “Self-Distancing” to Manage Stress

You can manage your stress more efficiently and break out of a rumination cycle by trying simple techniques.

It’s easy to fall into a cycle of replay in your brain when a negative event happens and catch yourself repeating the “he said/she said and I said” script over and over again. Being emotional creatures makes it difficult to shake off negative emotions rapidly. Luckily, researchers show us that we can use self-distancing techniques to get out of an emotional rollercoaster.

Self-distancing involves taking the perspective of an external observer and asking questions. Let’s say you got into a conflict with a loved one. Instead of thinking “I said this and he said that” over and over again, start asking questions like “How did Emma and John arrive at this discussion?”, or “Why did Emma feel so angry during the discussion?”

Imagine Emma and John sitting here and observe how they arrived at where they are.

Like all self-help methods, applying self-distancing techniques requires time and practice. Below are some suggestions you can try to improve this helpful stress management technique:

1.Imagine the events as an observer: Researchers suggest imagining a fly on the wall observing the relevant event that has caused the stress. You can replace the fly with your preferred animal. I usually go with a cat:)

What does our squirrel friend think about all that’s going on?

2.Use third-person pronouns: Avoid using “I” to step back from getting caught in self-talk.

3.Ask yourself this crucial question: Try asking yourself how you’d feel about the specific event five years from now. Asking this question is crucial to understand whether it’s worth living through all the mental trauma.

How will things look when you will arrive at that tree in the distance?

4.Get a pen and a piece of paper: Writing is a great remedy for a number of stressful situations. I remember reading somewhere that the nerves on our fingertips are related to the anxiety center in our brains. And writing relaxes the anxiety center.

All events, stressful or positive, are parts of our lives. We may not be able to change whatever took place in the past, but we definitely have control over how we can react to past events.

How do you handle stressful situations? What techniques can you apply to resolve your internal conflicts moving forward?

Dear Reader, did you find this article useful? If yes, I’d really appreciate it if you could share the link with your network. Thank you:)

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