Distraction- An Excellent Coping Skill

“I didn’t pay attention because I was distracted, ”

“Distracted Driving” “That person is a distraction”. All of these examples make distraction look pretty negative. When we think of the word distraction, we think that we are being pulled away from responsibilities in a way that is unkind, harmful, or even, in the case of driving, potentially dangerous. What we don’t think about as often is how helpful distraction can be as a way of coping. A distraction is something that pulls our focus from one thing to another thing. This can be a person, noise, feeling, experience, or even just a thought or memory. Some people are more distractible than others, and have to work harder to pay attention to what is in front of them.

So How Can Distraction be a Good Thing?

Sometimes, what we need a break from is our own thoughts or feelings. When our emotions feel overwhelming, they can also be harmful to our self-esteem, or, in more severe cases, to our physical or emotional safety. Positive distraction has a place in mental health, and, when used with other ways of coping, can be very healthy. Here are some examples of when distraction is helpful:

When someone is feeling suicidal or in crisis. In the case of a mental health crisis, distraction can literally save someone’s life. If someone is having suicidal thoughts a distraction can give them enough distance between themselves and the thought to ask for help. An intentional distraction can be helpful here too- if someone can use a conversation, music, physical temperature change, or even short, intense exercise, they can sometimes get through the thought for long enough to get help from someone else.

When anxiety is overwhelming. Anxiety has a functional purpose. We experience anxiety so that we get things done. However, sometimes, anxiety gets past the point of purpose, and can be related to something beyond our control. In this case, distraction can help break through thought cycles and help you feel better. 1. When doing something scary but not dangerous Sometimes we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to grow. This can be scary. Distracting yourself from the fear of the thing, like public speaking, meeting someone new, or even trying a scary seeming ride at an amusement park can help you feel more comfortable with the scary experience.

At the doctor or dentist. Going to the doctor or dentist can be uncomfortable, or sometimes even painful. Distracting yourself can help make these experiences more pleasant.

Distraction has its place but can also be unsafe. Driving while distracted- either by something like a phone call or text message, or even just while really upset,, can be incredibly dangerous. Being distracted at work can lead to mistakes. Being distracted during a conversation can make someone feel like they are not important to you. Distraction is a balance, and needs to be used carefully in order to be helpful.

Here are some distractions you can try if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, scared, or in pain:

1. Listening to music
2. Having a dance party
3. Telling a joke
4. Watching TV
5. Taking a shower
6. Going for a walk
7. Talking to a friend
8. Reading a book

How do you distract yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed?

Do you like to talk to friends on the phone? Read a good book? Listen to upbeat music? Sometimes even taking a few deep breaths or doing a short mindfulness exercise can help to make you feel just better enough to work through the problem. Distraction is not a solution, it is only a way of coping in the moment.

Are you looking to learn more coping skills? Are you struggling with your mental health and unsure of what to do? Give us a call today at 217-203-2008  or email us to schedule an appointment and start promoting peace from within.

For more blogs from Emily Beck, LCSW, visit her page at https://champaigncounseling.com/emily-beck-lcsw/
If you are feeling suicidal or are in crisis please call 988, the local crisis line at 217-359-4141, call 911, or proceed to your nearest emergency room.

December 9, 2022