Many times, when you are managing your mental health symptoms, engaging in a distraction can help you. When you have depression or anxiety, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by your emotions. When you focus on your negative emotions it can increase them or cause them to spiral out of control.
A distraction can be an effective short-term tool to help you regain control of your feelings.
It is important to remember to make use of distractions in a healthy way. You do not want to allow a distraction to become a tool of avoidance. It is one thing for you to take a time-out in order to re-group and come back in a better headspace to handle your problems. It’s an entirely different thing to ignore your problems while you binge-watch 12 seasons of some show.
Using distractions in a positive way can refresh you so that you are better able to manage your mental health challenges and your life. Avoidance, if taken too far, can allow your problems to fester until you have a catastrophe on your hands.
Here are some suggestions for healthy distractions that can give you some respite when your mental illness overwhelms you.
Music can be an excellent distraction. It is important that you carefully create playlists for your different moods. If you feel overwhelmed by depression, don’t listen to sad songs. Have a happy peppy playlist. If you are anxious, calmer songs are great. Maybe even some classical music if that works for you.
Be careful with triggers. If part of your anxiety is fearing that your spouse will cheat on you, don’t have songs about infidelity on your playlist. Some triggers may be permanent. Some may be temporary. My boyfriend died a year ago and I’m still grieving. I don’t listen to sad songs or love songs at all. Even some happy songs, if they reference relationships too directly, are on my no-go list. Eventually, they will be okay again, but not now.
Binaural beats are also a good option. I first learned about them a few months ago. I use them frequently to help me focus. Use common sense in you include binaural beats in your playlist. If you are driving, don’t listen to the sleep or relaxation ones.
Games are another quality source of distraction. They can take many forms. Video games. Card games. Board games. I like games on my tablet. Things like Candy Crush. They are challenging enough that I don’t get bored, but not challenging enough to trigger my competitive instincts. I’m a type-A competitive person and it would not relax me to compete. I don’t play other types of games very often.
You will have to decide for yourself what kinds of games will distract you. If Monopoly always makes your family fight, skip it. If you always end up screaming obscenities as your blood pressure soars during Call of Duty, find a different game for distraction.
The game should be something the takes you away from your stress without replacing it with other stress.
Friends and Family
Friends and family are contingent on their behavior. If you have understanding friends or family members who will distract you without trying to psychoanalyze you, then they will be good distractions. Sometimes loved ones want to sort out the problem and help you fix it. That might be fine in another situation (if that is what you want), but not as a distraction.
You want someone you can have coffee with and discuss celebrity gossip. Or discuss quantum physics. Whatever you find fun.
Choose carefully. If none of your loved ones fit in this category, that does not mean they don’t love you. It just means they are not good distractions when you are feeling overwhelmed.
This is my personal favorite. Most pets are extreme positives in people’s lives. They can distract you in numerous ways. Play fetch with the dog. Break out the laser toy for the cat. Petting and cuddling are never a bad idea.
Pets provide you with love and support at a level you can’t get easily from humans. If you have a pet, take advantage of that.
Many kinds of exercise can be both a distraction and help with your mental illness. Try yoga or stretching to relax. Go for a swim or run to release some endorphins. Take a walk or hike to enjoy being in nature. Even doing some chair-based leg lifts can help distract you from the negative stuff going on in your brain and are physically accessible to almost everyone.
When depression and anxiety overwhelm you, it is important to have tools at your disposal to help yourself. Knowing some things you can do to distract and reset yourself is a positive step toward healthy management of anxiety and/or depression.