It’s common to feel confident in the advice you give others yet struggle to do the same for yourself–and it’s even harder when you’re stuck in the middle of a negative thought loop, or what Kross calls “chatter.” For this reason, Kross recommends using “distant self-talk,” which requires giving yourself advice in the third person. “It is much easier for us to give advice to other people than to ourselves when we are experiencing chatter,” he says. “Distant self-talk uses language to shift your perspective and talk to yourself more similarly to how you would communicate with someone else that you care about.”
Now, if your situation is really pressing, this strategy alone may not help ease your worried thoughts. That’s why Kross calls upon another distancing technique he calls “temporal distancing,” or “mental time travel,” to double-down on persistent chatter. This technique puts the situation to the test by asking yourself: Will this problem hold the same amount of brain space a week from now? What about a year from now?
These questions can help you step out of the thought cycle and look at it from a different perspective. “When chatter takes hold, it often feels like everything is wrapped up in this experience and you’re never going to break free,” says Kross. This “mental time travel” technique can help you realize that although an event may be stressful, it likely isn’t the end of the world.
So when Kross wakes up in the middle of the night feeling worry or overwhelm (a very common experience), he will combine these two techniques and ask himself: Ethan, how are you going to feel about this tomorrow morning? “It’s always better in the morning,” he says. “It gives you hope that your circumstances are going to improve, and hope can be a powerful antidote to chatter.” If you want to learn even more about these distancing techniques, you can dive in here.