When faced with a stressful event, state the facts in one sentence. Anything beyond these facts is a story that the mind creates. Return to the facts - the only thing that is true in this moment.
I am a master at creating stories in my head.
Let me share an example related to patient care. I am a psychologist and I knew I would have to discuss some sensitive diagnostic issues with a patient. Prior to the appointment, I contrived several stories about how this interaction would go: the patient would become angry and would question my diagnostic acumen; the patient would become sad and I would regret sharing this information in this way, the patient would terminate treatment over this, and so on.
Often these stories we create around situations are negative, distressing to think about, and don’t end up happening.
One of the most effective tools I learned somewhere in my mindfulness training was to “drop the story.” It is a simple tool, but can be immensely helpful to return to the present moment, gain perspective, and reduce stress related to an (already stressful) event.
Here is how to practice this tool:
1.) When faced with a stressful event, state the facts in one sentence.
In this case the facts are that I have to discuss some sensitive diagnostic issues with a patient.
2.) Anything beyond these facts is a story that our mind creates. Notice the stories.
3.) Return to the facts—the only part of the experience that is true in the moment.
In sum, state the facts and drop the story.