When the going gets tough the tough find a good distraction. Be it chronic pain, acute anxiety, crushing depression, or a plethora of other physical and mental maladies, I find distractions frequently help stave off the worst of it.
I first read about using distractions to help with acute anxiety in Feeling Good by David D. Burns, which is a great read and the ultimate primer for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a series of coping methods and a common lifestyle addition for those dealing with anxiety and depression as well as many other psychological disorders.
Some CBT recommendations have worked well for me and others haven’t. At this stage, having been in therapy for so long, I use a variety of techniques from many different therapeutic modalities. I find it has been helpful to draw close as many helpful techniques as possible and distraction is one of my favourites.
For me, when I’m at home and in a lot of pain, anxious, or depressed, I use many distraction techniques to get my mind off the whatever is causing me grief. I find drawing, the more complicated the subject matter the better, while also trying to focus on a tv program to be extremely helpful. If drawing isn’t something that would work for you, fear not! The world is full of distractions, there’s something for everyone.
Other distractions to try are as follows, but the sky is the limit, keep trying different techniques until you find a few that work for you:
- Listening to podcasts
- Listening to music
- Knitting or crochet
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Phone a friend
- Colour in a colouring book, there are so many beautiful and unique choices on the market right now.
- stretching and gentle yoga
- Household tasks like; sweeping, dishes, dusting, and so on
- 5-7-5 Breathing – breathing in deeply for a count of 5, then exhale slowly for a count of 7, then continue the process by breathing in for a count of 5 and so on.
- Fidget spinners can be helpful or if you have a small brain teaser or puzzle you can carry with you
- Crossword puzzles, word searches, logic games, sudoku are great as they can easily be used at home or carried with you on outings
- Going for a walk
- Watch a tv show or a movie you enjoy
I’m sure, once you start trying different distractions you’ll come up with even more ideas and find a number of distractions that work for you.
One thing to keep in mind, especially for those with chronic pain or other chronic illnesses, is to be sure to pace yourself. It might help to set a timer when doing something physical, then switch to a quieter activity, and so on.
It can be tricky not to overdo it if you’re having a panic attack and you suffer from chronic pain, for instance. I tend to pace during panic attacks and if I go on too long with this I will end up with a chronic pain flare up and that just makes things worse.
I encourage you to get to know what activities work for you and why. I’d love to hear what tactics you use and further suggestions for distraction as I could not possibly offer an exhaustive list.