As an addendum to my post where I wrote about using third-person language in meditation to help keep distance between yourself and your thoughts, I wanted to revisit this method for everyday life.
While in that post I alluded to using third-person descriptions on stressful days, it’s really worth emphasizing the utility of creating space throughout the day.
To sum up that post, I mentioned a mindfulness technique suggested by meditation teacher Jeff Warren in which when we find ourselves being swept away in thought, we describe what’s happening in “third-person” language and play the role of an observer.
But as I said in that post, why limit that to meditation sessions? In fact, you could argue that it is even more important to bring that type of gentle detachment to the things that ordinarily set us off in our daily lives, whether it be with family, at work or anywhere.
I would say that so much of my anxiety has stemmed from an inability to maintain perspective about the trigger. Noticing when I’m getting carried away and then describing the situation as something that is happening to another person — similar to the way a newcaster might report on an event in a calm, informative manner — helps loosen its grip on me.
The ability to step back and detach from the situation is kind of the name of the game in terms of reducing stress levels, isn’t it?
By narrating the circumstances around your stressors, we make space: “FranticShanti felt a little ill when she saw that the letter in her mailbox was from her landlady. She expected this to be about a rent increase…and she was right. Another $200 per month.”
That telling offers some space. It doesn’t change the situation, simply presents what’s happening in an unemotional manner. Then following up with some trouble-shooting helps soothe my agitation: “This will require a review of her finances, but as she calculated with last year’s rent increase, she can still absorb this additional amount. Things will probably be okay. She takes some deep breaths and feels into her hands and feet.”
Not only can you calmly describe the situation, but you can describe yourself engaging in self-soothing techniques as you work out your next steps.
It is quite effective in slowing down racing thoughts, particularly if you’re in a place where you can speak out load, as hearing yourself describing things can be even more grounding.
As with other simple grounding techniques, this may seem a little contrived or simplistic, but it might be just enough to bring you out of your head and into the here and now — cool, calm and collected.