Use This Science-Backed Technique to Combat Stress

For most of us, stress is something we deal with every day. Some days it's worse than others, so finding a good coping mechanism is essential. There are many ways to tackle it, meditation, walking, centering, and more — but this science-backed technique may be the best answer to finding some relief when the stress rages. Check this out.

Distanced Self-Talk

Researchers with the Association for Psychological Science have a theory for regulating stress. They’re using a technique called distanced self-talk. Instead of referring to ourselves in the first person (I, me), they advocate shifting our language and referring to ourselves in the second (you) or third person (he, she, or by name).

This distanced technique is a way of reframing a stressful or unpleasant situation to better control and even change how we feel and react to stressful stimuli. This puts individuals in an outside position, which removes them from the situation, allowing them to reframe their negative experiences. Seriously.

Reflecting From an Outside Perspective

When we’re under stress or in a highly unpleasant situation, we often tune into ourselves to analyze the situation. In other words, we work from the first-person position of "I." But sometimes, by focussing on our emotions, we may actually make things more complex because into the "I" position we carry all of our past baggage and preconceived notions of what "I" would do and feel. For someone who is stressed, honing in on that stress through existing lenses can make matters worse and lead to emotional vulnerability they are ill-equipped to sort out in the moment.

Instead, by taking control of those thoughts by literally looking at the situation from the outside, we may be able to formulate solutions because even though we can acknowledge feelings, we aren't usually as mired in them from an external viewpoint. Once someone learns to switch perspectives, they can learn to deal with stress better. Think about it — it's often easier to help a friend than to help ourselves.

Distancing for Emotion Regulation

So how does it work? When the stress begins to creep in, instead of saying "I feel" or "I think," we can use a second-person address, “you feel" or you think." Or even a third-person "they think" or "she feels," can work, too. The point is to push it outside yourself. This substitution helps cue emotional regulation for a healthier take on the problem. For example, instead of saying, “How am I going to handle this stressful meeting?” we would switch to “How is he going to handle this?”

The subtle switch in self-talk can change things up wonderfully and may actually help us think more rationally in the moment. 

Leads to Fewer Aggressive Thoughts

The loss of emotional control triggered by stress or intense frustration can lead to scatterbrained thinking or unhealthy solutions or even emotional outbursts as our bodies and minds attempt to move the stress outside the body or burn it off. Distanced self-talk may even reduce aggressive thoughts and therefore help us to regulate outbursts. From an external perspective, we can look for more options and solutions without becoming overwhelmed by emotion and the deeply personal need to react.

Words are potent, especially when we are talking to or referring to ourselves — everything the mind says from an "I am" position is absolutely believed by the body. It's coming from within, how could it possibly be false? So what we intentionally feed out to our feelings and body from inside our minds can have a significant impact on everything from what we are feeling to how we act because of that. So when we push it outside ourselves, our minds can turn to a different tactic to help us make sense of the problem and we may be able to feel more in control. It's certainly worth a try!

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4/28/2021 5:26:16 PM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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