Take a few moments to bring to mind a difficult experience you are dealing with: some event in the past that made you sad or angry, for example, or some anxiety or worry you have about the future.

Try to understand your feelings using “you,” “he/she,” and “[your own name]” as much as possible. If your name is Dana, for example, you would ask yourself, “Why does Dana feel this way? What are the underlying causes and reasons for her feelings?” If you begin to see the event in your mind, try to watch through the eyes of a distanced, third-party observer, rather than through your own eyes.

The goal here is not to avoid or separate from your feelings, but to analyze them from a clearer and more helpful vantage point. Spend three minutes reflecting in this way, writing down your thoughts if you feel so inclined.

Although it may feel unnatural to talk to yourself in the third person, research suggests that it can help you confront difficult feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them. Eventually, you might be able to use this kind of self-talk during difficult events as they’re unfolding, such as a stressful task at work or a particularly challenging social situation.

You can practise this exercise in any situation that may happen to you, it takes only 5 minutes!