I’ve had some up-and-down weeks this year and have been working on making space in my head to lessen the impact of anxious thoughts.
I recently heard a wonderful suggestion by meditation teacher Jeff Warren (via his Daily Trip on the Calm app) about creating more mental room for yourself. He encourages describing what’s happening in the third person when thoughts come up during meditation.
Like many suggestions to help with mindfulness, this seems surprisingly simple, but so far I and everyone else I’ve recommended it to have found it to be very effective.
It goes like this: I am sitting in meditation focused on my breath (or any other chosen anchor) and a thought pops into my mind. I say to myself, “There goes FranticShanti thinking about X topic again”.
Suddenly I feel a *whoosh* as I’m pulled back out of that scenario. And instead, I’m observing myself having that thought. Hearing myself describe the situation as a bystander has a calming effect and creates a sensation of safety and distance.
I’m still staying present and noticing what’s going on around me, but recognizing that this thought is happening to the person who is known as me — instead of allowing myself to get sucked into it, along with all the associated emotions — expands the amount of mental space I have.
It’s kind of like looking through a window at a situation instead of being there in the room with it. Not nearly as scary or immersive.
Likewise, throughout the day, describing a stressful situation in third person helps us remember that there is always space around us that can serve as a buffer from unsettling thoughts. It can even help us handle anxiety-provoking situations as it also provides an opportunity to describe a potential ‘solution’, as if you were to give a friend some advice on how to deal with it.
Imagine saying, “[Your name] just realized that there’s a deadline they forgot about, so they’re reshuffling their schedule to accommodate the task.” That’s much more productive and grounding than screaming, “AAAAAAAAIIIIIIIEEEEE!!!” in your head.
So, I’ve started using this in everyday interactions when I feel myself getting swept away by worries. It’s been an effective way of bringing myself back into the present, to what is real and actually here, and it serves to reframe what is going on in my life.
This sort of method brings stressors down to a manageable level, allowing for perspective. And we can all use a bit of that.
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