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2 Minutes to Calm a Stressful Inner Voice

SK Camille
3 min readMar 30

Recommendations from a psychologist and expert in emotion and self-control.

According to University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross, your inner voice has a vital purpose — to help you function by playing a part in self-control and taking goal-oriented action. It’s part of the brain’s system to support working memory.

But the inner voice can become detrimental in three ways, Kross says:

  • It can distract your attention and interfere with tasks where you need to be focusing. By stealing your attentional capacity, it can compromise your performance at work.
  • It can also bring about a stress response that could contribute to health problems such as sleep disorders or heart disease.
  • If you verbalize your inner voice to others, it can result in oversharing — especially online — a behavior that can drive people away and cause social isolation.

If the inner voice is a problem for you, Kross recommends using techniques to distance yourself from the inner voice and create perspective.

If the inner voice tends to pull you into a negative vortex about a specific issue, Kross suggests creating distance from what the voice is saying by thinking about the issue from a different point of view — such as another person’s point of view, or a point of view in your past or future. In addition to creating distance, this can help you see the issue in a wider perspective so it will feel less stressful.

Kross says some people find it effective to simply tell themselves to calm down, particularly if you call yourself by your own name. Using the third person (your own name) seems to create a distancing effect that helps quiet the inner voice.

If you tend to share your inner chatter with others, you probably do it because it helps you feel better — or because you think it can, according to Kross. Talking with others about problems does give you an opportunity to receive empathy and obtain practical solutions. But often, talking about a problem devolves into “co-rumination,” where you both get mired in the feeling of helplessness and never move to problem solving.

To avoid co-rumination, Kross recommends balancing empathy and intellectual

SK Camille

I cover general-interest professional topics in clear, actionable briefs. I also write about change, growth, and faith with warmth and optimism.