An Old Trick That Takes Just 30 Seconds Can Reduce Your Anxiety

An old trick to reduce fear and anxiety takes just 30 seconds and a pen.

This centuries-old trick works flawlessly to relieve fear and anxiety within minutes. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by agonizing or stressful feelings, find something to write on. Write down a word that describes the emotion you’re experiencing. Any word, a few words, anything that pops into your mind at that exact painful moment.

Labelling an emotion can diminish the impact of your negative feelings, slowly coming out from that poor emotional state. It’s called affect labelling and it has its roots in the 17th century, when the philosopher Baruch Spinoza wrote: “An emotion, which is a passion, ceases to be a passion, as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof.”

Putting feelings into words is probably the basis of modern psychoanalysis. Naming the state you’re going through not only has a cathartic effect but shows that other people have experienced it.

Affect labeling is actually a short version of self-compassion therapy:

  1. Accept that a situation is hurtful or uncomfortable
  2. Recognize that pain is part of the human experience
  3. Do something healthy to ease the discomfort like go outside, exercise, or meet a friend.

So next time you feel taken away by the dark side, take a pen and write down a few words. Try to name the feelings you’re experiencing and you’re one step away from the sad corner.