#72 A Universal Tool to Manage Anxiety

tool to manage anxiety

Just as the term “social distancing” has been a necessary, societal buzzword, we will highlight another form of distancing. Distancing is a method everyone can apply as a tool to manage anxiety. Below are 5 examples of how to apply distancing to gain perspective and promote calmness.

The following ideas/exercises are borrowed from award-winning psychologist Ethan Kross as explained in his book Chatter. He states, “while distancing doesn’t solve our problems, it increases the likelihood that we can.”

I. Dump Your Thoughts Down on Paper

In other words, start journaling.

As basic as this sounds, journaling involves writing down your most serious, negative or upsetting experiences. It only takes a few minutes at a time to record a sequence of events and thoughts. Writing by hand is not essential; typing is also effective. 

By focusing your experiences from the perspective of a narrator who must create a story, it helps create distance. You become less tied to your anxious situations and thoughts.

II. Time Travel into the Future

Technically referred to as temporal distancing, this involves the mental practice of visualizing our future selves.

Here is how it works. Ask yourself how you might feel a year from now, 5 or 10 years from now, about anxious or dire situations. Answering these questions can help create distance – a great tool to manage anxiety!

The purpose of temporal distancing is to help you realize that experiences, emotions, and situations are always temporary.

Nothing is ever held constant in our lives – a realization that can be remarkably helpful in times of distress.

III. Zoom Out, Not In

Zooming out is an ability to see yourself (and your life circumstances) from afar. In other words, try to be the observer of your life and your world, as opposed to living as the main character.

You can do this with past, current, or future events.

It is kind of like viewing videos on your phone. When you replay scenes, just as rewatching a video, you can see different perspectives. This practice allows us to pick up on things we may have missed before. 

It’s as though we become a fly on the wall such that we see and hear our segments of lif from an observer perspective.

IV. Get Awe-Inspired

Awe, according to Kross, is the wonder we feel when encountering something powerful that we cannot easily explain.

He says, “awe is considered a self-transcendent emotion in that it allows people to think and feel beyond their own needs and wants.”

There are plenty of ways we can experience awe, it’s all about personal preference:

  • take a walk in nature
  • view favorite art forms like paintings, sculptures, or architecture
  • hear art forms such as music, singing, chirping birds, or crackling fire
  • soak in the ocean, mountains, desert, or a campfire
  • watch animals in nature
  • read a book, poem, or song lyrics

Kross states that “when you’re in the presence of something vast and indescribable, it’s hard to maintain the view that you – and the voice in your head – are the center of the world.”

V. Say Your Name

Also known as distanced self-talk, this idea may sound a little quirky. It’s involves the idea that you refer to yourself in 2nd or 3rd person while contemplating a problem.

I personally love this tool to manage anxiety. I can’t explain why, but it works for me!

When frustrated at the world or myself, I will say my name. I will not ask of myself, “what am I doing and why … how should I respond to this … etc.” Rather, I will ask or say aloud, “Gina, what are you doing and why … Gina how are you going to respond to this?”

As awkward as it may initially feel, try it if you don’t believe me!

This kind of distanced self-talk is a quick and powerful psychological brain hack.

The ideas/exercises above are borrowed from award-winning psychologist Ethan Kross as explained in his book Chatter. He states, “while distancing doesn’t solve our problems, it increases the likelihood that we can.”

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