The unsurprising part of this piece is that people tend to seek more psychiatric help in the months following the holiday season. According to Professor Ed Watkins, this could be due to a number of reasons, from family altercations to financial stress, or the perception that everyone else’s holiday was nicer or more put together than yours.
Whatever the reason, the researchers in this case think that they may have found a rather surprising way to help people face and get past the incidents that continue to cause them distress. Oddly enough, by recalling the details of a disagreement or a bad interaction in a particular way, we can actually stop it from leading to anxiety and depression.
In the study, people were asked to recall specific things like the tone of their voice, the exact words used, and how they felt at that point…and people who participated in the study recovered more quickly from mildly upsetting experiences.
In fact, the daily training helped them spot the warning signs of stress and head them off at the pass, avoiding bouts of depression altogether.
That’s the surprising part. It sounds counterintuitive, especially since many of us who deal with anxiety know that overanalyzing an event and going over it a million times causes us more stress.
According to Professor Watkins:
“We have found in the lab that when people train themselves to think about the specific sensory details, context, and sequence of an emotional event, including how it unfolded, they were more emotionally resilient to an unexpected stressor than those who thought about the meaning and implications of emotional events.
Similar studies showed that when people with depression are encouraged to focus on how an upsetting event happened and how it unfolded, it improved their ability to solve problems such as arguing with their partner, and with repeated practice, this can in fact hasten recovery out of depression itself.”
Practice makes perfect, it sounds like, so the next time you have an upsetting experience, try taking back control of what happened by purposely recalling all of the specifics of the event. Once it’s clear in your mind what exactly happened and how you could have steered it differently – or perhaps that it wasn’t as bad as you believed – you may be able to put it more easily behind you.
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