Friday, February 3, 2012

Psychological Distance as Stress Reducer

As the weekend approaches, start thinking about ways that you can have a relaxing couple of days; or at least one day. What are the anticipated stressors on that day? A birthday party for your 5 year old? New neighbors coming over for dinner? Yard guys renovating the back yard with loud noise all day? Getting everyone up and out on Sunday for church and brunch with grandparents? Work deadlines looming for next week? Spouse in a long-term lousy mood?

Being able to remove yourself psychologically helps. Here are different ways to get emotional distance:

• Five minutes of alone physical distance can help, preferable outside, but if not, in the shower, under the eaves, in the car or garage.
• Five to twenty minutes of meditation in the morning of the rough day. Even if you've never meditated, don't know anything about it, sit quietly, eyes closed and work to empty your mind.
• Repeat robotically, without judgment, quietly or out loud, "I'll handle this well. One step at a time."
• Slow your breathing, counting to 20, if you feel your heart beat rising and pounding with frustration, anger, or anxiety. Repeat as needed.
• Imagine yourself surrounded by plexiglass, impermeable to outside forces, physical or interpersonal or social.
• Imagine you are watching yourself on screen as if you were in the audience at a movie theater. Keep moving your seat further back.
• Distract, divert attention when possible to reading a book, doing a puzzle, watching the moonrise, cleaning out a drawer.

Give it a shot. Even if your life is mostly chaotic, most of the time, it's a huge relief to know that you can find moments of coping that reduce the exhausting emotional intensity — for the moment.
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1 comment:

  1. This is tremendous advice and something I wish I'd read eight hours ago - before the argument with my mother and before the negative self-bashing over my inability to get dinner on the table with enough time to eat before we had to rush out the door to get to my son's preschool "family night". Although I felt I could step outside myself and see how destructive my self-bashing was, making everyone around me more uncomfortable, and the situation ultimately worse, I felt paralyzed from being able to break out of the cycle. I will try some of these techniques. Perhaps if I could have summoned a smile and excused myself, I could have reframed my perspective and let go of the negative, embracing what really mattered.


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