Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday's Stress Reduction Technique — Detachment

Detachment is defined as a state of being aloof and objective, a process of separating. Detachment is a great way to reduce stress by separating emotion and evaluation from a stress-producing situation, whether the stressor is external or internal. It's similar to watching, hearing, or reading about an event that unfolds — from a distance — with an amount of dispassion. For example, when the news first broke about the shootings in Tucson AZ in early 2011, we may have felt shock, disbelief, sadness, concern for the victims, but probably blood pressure didn't rise, hearts didn't pound, stomachs didn't tighten into knots. Most of us were removed by distance, political and personal ramifications, a felt threat, a personal connection.

Obviously, it's harder to get to that depersonalized state when your internal or external stressors, whether people or events, are on top of you. Distance has to come from your mind, not your geography. The research of Matud et al. tells us that women are more likely to cope with stress through emotion and avoidance, while men are more likely to cope with problem-solving thinking and detachment. The research also confirms what most of us know: women experience more stress than men do.

  I have had a tendency to act and react quickly to stressful people and circumstances, which often increases the drama and potential for trauma on both sides. I'm finding more frequently that if I detach from the emotion, whether it's pain, anger, irritation, frustration, anxiety, fear or another angst, I can move on with the rest of my life quite smoothly, leaving the unresolved situation behind me. Sometimes it reappears in the middle of a dream or wakeful moment at night. Occasionally, I'm forced to dealing with it; by the other person, the situation itself, or my own inability to detach. But when I can detach, for an hour or a day or a week, I have yet to experience any negative consequences. If I decide later that  I want to act on the stressful circumstance, I can do so. I'm generally calmed by my detachment and can handle it more smoothly and less disruptively than had I plowed through with my very engaged emotionality. Do you see the difference in detachment and avoidance?
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