Distracting the Mind
People who are in crisis may find it difficult to distract themselves from their situation without resorting to harmful distraction techniques. You may be facing any number of distressing symptoms – nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, dissocation or reckless impulses.
Sometimes you may just need to take a step back, our of the situation, and use healthy distraction techniques before you can use your other skills to help you through the situation.
It’s important to note that distraction is a short-term strategy, it’s there toi help you in the moment. If you over-use it, it becomes less effective at the times when you really need it the most. But when you are in crisis, switching gears and doing something distracting can help you get the foundation you need to press on.
Some distraction techniques are low energy, so you can use them even when you are at your lowest. These might include:
- watching tv or movies – if you are on a low income and don’t have streaming services, local libraries usually have low-cost movie rentals, or you can watch some things on free websites such as YouTube
- listen to music and sing along, focusing on the sounds and sensations you feel
- doodle – mindless doodles with no purpose can be especially helpful if you are restless and generally need to keep your hands busy
- play a game – a board game, mobile phone game or computer game. Anything where you need to focus for a short period of time.
- make a collage from a magazine – choose a topic or just put things to gether. You could make a collage out of a colour, or a theme. Pay attention to the pieces you use, the colours and how the pieces feel.
- wash your face – the act of going to splash water on your face, though simple, can be refreshing and help you feel invigorated
- write a thankful list – write down all the things you are thankful for. You might include friends and family, job, health and finances, or you might include simple things like a trip to the beach, rainbows or a good cup of coffee
- beading – putting beads on string can be very therapeutic, and you can choose to make them into jewellery or take apart for the next time
- play with fidget gadgets – these are designed for your to use without having to think, focus on the sound and feel
- sit outside – even just on your step, allow yourself to see, hear and feel what is happening
If you are feeling like you could do activities with medium effort, you could try:
- read a book – any book that you like the look of, as long as it doesn’t make you feel any worse than you do in the moment
- a puzzle game or book – crosswords, number games, logic puzzles
- learn something new – watch a Ted talk, YouTube video or an online lecture on something you know little about
- make a Pinterest board of things you like, or things you would like in the future
- Connect with others – send texts or messages, check in with people, see how they are. Caring for others helps us reconnect with the world without putting pressure on
- Take a shower or bath, focusing on the smells and sensations
- Take some photos – of anything you want. Try some new filters or effects, or take photgraphs of completely random things you’d never normally photograph. You could even set a theme – take ten photos of blue things, or ten photos of animals
These activities require more energy, remember to only do what you feel able to, and which will make you feel more relaxed and able to get back into using skills and getting through crisis
- make yourself a meal – something that requires preparation and many steps, and will leave you with a sense of achievement and confidence that you followed through
- begin learning a new language – there are many websites where you can learn the basics of any language online
- volunteer your time – you can help in a homeless kitchen, look after animals at the pet shelter (very therapeutic!), or even just offer to help your elderly neighbour out
- exercise – join a local sports team, go to an aerobics class, or just go for a jog in the local park
- declutter – do one drawer or cupboard at a time, getting rid of what you don’t need.
- meet a friend for coffee or lunch
- go to a museum or art gallery, transport yourself into another time and place