The conversations you have with yourself, in your mind or out loud, can either dial up or dial down the amount you worry about. “Inner talk is one of the most effective, least-used tools available to master the psyche and foster life success,” says Psychologist Ethan Kross.

Times have changed since we thought others were crazy for talking to themselves. Many of us are doing it, and self-talk is recognized as an exceptionally useful tool as we navigate our various roles and areas of responsibility as a colleague, parents, siblings, students, and more. The quiet words we have with ourselves can help or hinder us as we learn how to stop worrying through self-talk.

There are two types of self-talk. There is the quick reacting, knee jerk, and spontaneous reflex which comes from the emotional side of our brain. It is the hard-wired voice of survival and often it veers toward criticism or being negative which creates the environment required for self-doubt, depression, anxiety, and self-sabotage.

The second voice comes from our prefrontal cortex, or thinking brain, and so it is linked to a greater ability to be introspective, deliberate, and have positive thoughts. Your internal voice of kindness is a skill that you have learned to tone down the effect of your emotional brain and give you healthy emotions and reactions such as happiness, lucidity, self-confidence, and composure that help you to stop the voice of worry and panic.

The science of self-talk.

Interestingly, studies show that how we use this quiet inner voice makes a real difference in our stress levels, how we respond to disappointments, as well as the capacity we have to accomplish tasks and fulfill various roles.

If we listen to our natural fight or flight knee-jerk inner voice, we may well be too afraid to try new things, discouraged that we have relaxed in our fitness regime, or worked up to a state of utter shame at how others perceived an innocent mistake.

At times like this, the volume of our emotional brain, which is not composed or calm, climbs high enough to ensure any positivity and composure is drowned out. After a little while, once we are calm, our ability to reflect with a clear mind returns, and we can see the bigger picture of evidence which presents a far more balanced view of events.

During an experiment, Ethan Kross asked participants to prepare a speech in five minutes. One study group was not allowed to refer to themselves by their name, while in the second group, they were to do so. He intended to investigate how referring to yourself by your name, or as he called it, first-name self-talk, disabled stress.

In multiple studies, Kross found that referring kindly to yourself, by your name, is an effective method of how to stop worrying.

How this works is that when we use the first-person pronoun “I” in our self-talk, we continue to identify with the voice from the pessimistic, emotional brain. But as we refer to ourselves in the third person, i.e., you or by our name, it mutes the way we ruminate and helps us get control of our impulses.

This is especially useful when we are feeling threatened or uncertain in our daily lives. This will help us interpret a situation that we would have previously thought of as a threat, a challenge that is to be solved.

Studies have found that brain scans of people using third-person self-talk while being shown disturbing images were better at dealing with their emotions, and they were able to successfully self-regulate and figure out how to stop worrying when referring to themselves in the third person.

The research shows that simply referring to yourself by your name, like how you would think about others in your life, helps with self-control. Taking no more effort than first-person self-talk, it gives perspective and emotional balance, engages your thinking brain, and is found to be worthwhile by many people who practice it.

A group of dieters and non-dieters were used in a separate experiment. By using self-talk as a method to increase their self-control, researchers found that both groups made healthier eating choices.

Self-talk can make you kinder to yourself.

When you are next performing a difficult task that requires a heightened level of self-control, practice activating your calm inner voice by referring to yourself by your name. Researchers find that this prevents our emotional brain from making reactive decisions that cause errors and lead to mistakes.

The same study revealed that when not able to verbalize supportive messages to yourself, it is more difficult to bring the same amount of self-control to bear throughout the process.

When referring to ourselves positively, studies show that these positive affirmations work as “cognitive expanders” that give a clearer perspective on the situation. Researchers found that these self-affirmations gave participants the benefit of a more objective, arms-length relationship which improved their self-esteem.

How to stop worrying by practicing self-talk.

So, the question remains of how we can act more out of our thinking brain, and less from our emotional brain the moment life suddenly serves us lemons. By actively turning to this technique of distanced self-talk, our brains are given a chance to react to the event as it if were happening to someone else.

One way to understand it is to think of your reaction as a phone conversation, and the other person is shouting at you. You can hold it at arms-length and wait for the shouting to stop without reacting.

In these instances, you can be more aware of your emotions ready to tie you up into a downward spiral, but instead, you can acknowledge it, hold it at arm’s length, and observe it until you have a handle on the emotion involved.

Debating with your negative inner voice or trying to out-argue does not teach you how to stop worrying. Rather, listen and acknowledge your negative voice as part of you, keeping in mind it is not the whole part of you.

By recognizing it, your brain gives you the psychological distance to understand that your negative voice’s story is not the only version of events, and tunes into your thinking brain’s introspective, deliberate, and positive perspective.

By realizing there are more sides to the story you become calmer, clearer in your thoughts, compassionate toward yourself, and able to have more self-confidence and courage as you deal with the situation.

Five different ways to practice distanced self-talk.

  1. Name the unpleasant part of yourself when referring to it in conversation with someone else, i.e. – “My inner punisher wants to dwell on negative what-if scenarios after I got that negative feedback from the presentation today.”
  2. If your negative thoughts are getting louder and louder, silently refer to yourself by name to reduce the volume and give your thinking brain a chance to introduce its perspective, i.e.: “Paul, you are upset that motorist cut you off. Be careful not to let your anger become more important than your safety and that of your passengers.”
  3. Address your negative emotion directly as if it could understand you, i.e.: “You can’t scare me, Fear. I have been through tough places before, and I know what I can do now.”
  4. Be kind to yourself when managing conflicting emotions, i.e.: “I can see that you want to fall into your old habit of emotional eating because the rent is late. But you know you won’t enjoy this guilt-laden food. By eating it you will choose to distract yourself when you should rather find a way to solve this problem. You are better than this. Here and now, we will make choices that reflect the person we know we are.”
  5. When you have the opportunity to catch yourself doing what is right, congratulate yourself using your name, i.e.: “Good job Peter. You were assertive and set a healthy boundary with that colleague. Well done.”

Christian counseling on how to stop worrying.

If you’re looking for additional help with how to stop worrying, browse our online counselor directory or contact our office to schedule an appointment. We would be honored to walk with you on this journey.

“California sunset”, Courtesy of Sebastien Gabriel,, CC0 License; “Talk to the Hand”, Courtesy of Nadine Shaabana,, CC0 License; “See the Good”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao,, CC0 License; “Something Good…”, Courtesy of Kaylee Brayne,, CC0 License


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