Here’s a quick mental trick you can use the next time you’re caught up in stressful thoughts.
(Signs that you’re caught up in stressful thoughts include: a lack of awareness of the physical world around you and feelings of anxiety, apprehension, or stress)
Describe what is going on around you with extremely simple language. I’ve heard this technique described before as looking at the world through a dog’s eyes.
Note who in your immediate vicinity. Use generic nouns and simple verbs. Avoid attributing meaning to what is going on.
For example, as I write this article I might describe what is going on by saying “Woman sitting.”
Earlier this month I played in an ultimate frisbee tournament. There were missed throws, amazing catches, and arguments over rules. A golden retriever sat on the sideline. None of the angst over playing well touched her. She might have described the scene as “Friends outside” or “Friends playing a game.”
When you use this technique two things happen.
1) It brings you back to the present moment. You reconnect to the reality of the moment that you are living in right now.
2) It interrupts whatever story is running through your head. Maybe one evening you find yourself worrying about something bad happening in the future. This worry is all in your head. It isn’t actually happening. By stepping out of this story and into a simple description of your surroundings you’re able to put some distance between yourself and a painful mental story.
Try this technique the next time you notice that you’re spending a lot of time in your mind mulling over unpleasant thoughts. Maybe you’re frustrated over a kid’s behavior. Or you’re feeling anxious about your future. It becomes “woman standing next to child” and “man out walking.” Much more peaceful.