Talking to yourself will help the stress!

Thursday, 16 June 2022

I heard Ethan Kross (Psychologist and Prof of Psychology at Michigan University) talk the other day on controlling the chatter in your head. Kross is quite an expert in this field and has written articles and books on the topic. His interview can be found on the ABC Podcast All in the Mind. Kross mentions the fact that we all have chatter in our head – that’s the human condition. We have an inner voice to assist us to remember groceries we are buying, to motivate us when playing a game, and to create stories in our head to make sense of the world, even to rehearse before an interview. 

Sometimes, that inner voice can become chatter and hyper-focussed on something negative and it replays in our head over and over again. Obviously when it is becoming debilitating in this way it can have a corrosive impact on our health and wellbeing. 

So how can children learn to overcome some of these negative replays in the head? 

According to Kross’ research, distanced self-talk – where we use second or third person pronouns to distance ourselves from the stressful task we’re facing – could help us to better cope with stressful or emotionally-challenging situations.     

Distanced self-talk can reduce emotional reactivity – e.g. the extent to which your emotions control your response to a situation, compared to the rational part of your brain. In this way, distanced self-talk can help us to better regulate our emotions in stressful situations – an outcome which could help us to reduce the amount of stress we feel and respond in a more helpful and productive way.

How to speak to yourself matters (Psychology Today) states: ‘In simple terms, the technique involves reflecting on your stressful experience from an outside perspective. This is accomplished by a change of pronouns. Instead of using the first person “I” in your internal monologue, you can use your name, the second-person generic “you,” the third-person pronouns “he, she, they,” or even a “fly on the wall” perspective. For example, let's assume I'm facing a problem, or reflecting on an emotionally stressful situation I've experienced. Instead of thinking, “How will I solve this problem?” or, "How am I feeling about what happened?" I may ask myself “How is Noam going to solve this problem?” or "How is Noam feeling about what happened?" or “How will you solve the problem?” or, “What's the 'fly on the wall’ perspective on what happened?” etc.’

‘This idea may seem simplistic, but things are not always what they seem. In fact, words are highly consequential to our lived experience. Indeed, a considerable body of empirical evidence has accumulated over the past decade to support the efficacy of distanced self-talk for improving emotion management, decision making, and coping with stress.’

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