Psychological Distancing while Social Distancing

Clearing the Crisis

People, in general, are all too anxious and overwhelmed to conquer a crisis. All the while, we require the strategies to regulate such anxiety so we can handle crisis and overcome it. In the midst of crisis, how can we harness our inner-coach to help us calm down and make good decisions?

How do we practice self control and emotional regulation?

Intense emotions, like anxiety, can have a powerful effect on how we think and behave. When we tap into our intense anxiety, we then become precision focused on the crisis, and that can make us stumble on other things important to us. If over-focused on our anxiety, we couldn't even get through a grocery list! While experiencing such an intense emotion, we might hold our hand out and push everything from the shelves into our cart. We find it so far from us to think critically about what we need at home, to feed our family and provide the ingredients needed for all meals, so we just get it all. We are incapable of following a simple list because such intense emotions have us forget about the list.

Human attention is a limited resources. Intense anxiety can knock out our ability to think well. Intense emotions make people highly motivated to talk to other people about it, and usually they are not able to cap that, resulting in pushing people away.

Intense anxiety also impacts our physical health as it activates a biological fight or flight response. This could be a good thing in some situations! It works well in short term, but when chronically activated overtime like with anxiety, biological systems weaken and perform less well. 

What is Emotion Regulation? The ability to align how you are feeling with how you want to feel. Emotional Regulation facilitates the ability to push emotions up and down.

Emotional Regulation does not mean turning emotions off from feeling anything, ,but reigning the emotions in to a point that's most adaptive for us. Anxiety can keep us safe, like during the COVID quarantine. Pushing such nervous emotions upward can keep us safe at home, as to flatten the curve. However, we do not want the anxiety to overrun us and make us explode. We want to regulate our emotions on a balance beam as to assure we are not impaired from critical thinking or able to refrain from word vomit to those close to us.

Many of us do very well with social distancing, but how do we do with psychological distancing? Think of a situation when a friend or loved one has come to you with a problem they're spinning about. It is easy for you to coach them through the situation because, you have psychological distance from that person and situation. It isn't personal to you so you can give that support. When we do this for ourselves, we can think of our crisis more objectively. We must harness our inner coach for ourselves, especially now during this global pandemic, riots and and fear for the economy.

Psychological distancing can be more challenging when everyone you know is freaking out about the same thing. This is why being your own psychological distancing coach will be helpful harness! We need to be able to calm down and think critically again.

Becoming your own Inner-Coach

I've referred to myself in third person many times. While nannying, I do it most. Kids are great and they teach us many valuable lessons! We are reminded to be childlike, creative, curious and above all, patient. When I feel I might be losing my patience, I might respond to a child's improper behavior with, "I don't want to make an emotional decision and be mad at you all the time. Listen to Vivia because she wants to help you. She doesn't want you to think you're mad at her all the time."

Not only does the child listen more when I use my name in third person, but I practice psychological distancing to assure I don't actually lose myself, my patience and mimic the tantrum the child was having.

Talking in Third Person We use words like names, or he or she, when we think about and refer to other people. When using those parts of speech to think of ourselves (talking in third person) we can harness our inner-coach with psychological distance. 


Why am I feeling this way?

Why is Vivia feeling this way?

When we use our own name, harnessing our inner-coach for ourselves, we can find a way through our crisis and find how to overcome it. We think less of our performance by changing one word in the way we talk about ourselves, lessening the pressure adding to the crisis and intense emotion.

Practice talking in third person silently and not out loud. Silent shifts are good. Silence can be loud and very telling, so if we are able to quiet our mind and fixate our focus on a solution, rather, we can really bring ourselves to a calm quicker.

This isn't just a strategy adults can use, but parents can help kids regulate their emotions by practicing this with their kids as well.

If you have a kid engaging in a really stressful task, you can ask them to, "Think about why you're doing this"... or rather,"Imagine you are Batman. Why is Batman doing it this way?" This can help those with difficulty controlling their emotions because they are also removing the direct pressure from themself and forming critical thinking in the third person. While they answer such a question, they are already learning to cope and cool down from an intense emotion.

End of Blog Questions:

1. Can you become your inner-coach?

2. Can you harness your ability to push emotions up and down?

3. When you know you have anxiety, will you get the support you need as to avoid pushing people away from you?

4. While you practice social distancing, will you also practice psychological distancing?

5. On a piece of paper, write out two sentences. "Why am I thinking this way?" and "Why is (your name) thinking this way?" How does answering these questions make you feel? Does your second answer support you more than your first?

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