MAIN ATTRACTION: DISTRACTION!
Distraction is a coping skill we recommend for when you’re overwhelmed with feelings or having intense food cravings. It is surprising how powerful distraction can be in shifting your mood and quieting your mind.
Of course, being mindful of our emotions and processing them in the moment is a fundamental key for success and helps us understand our emotional landscape. However, there are times when we need a healthy escape, especially when we get confused, or experience extreme exhaustion, or have had an emotionally draining day and have no energy left at all. At such times, distraction works wonders to help pass time and avoid further havoc.
We are talking about guilt-free distraction. We can escape in all sorts of healthy ways. Pick up your guitar, or turn on a nonsensical show, or grab a juicy romance novel. Do needlepoint. Listen to a podcast. Catch up on current events. Get the drift? These are all Dialectical Behavior Therapy distress-tolerance skills we suggest to clients. There are three main categories.
Activities: What activities really take you away from distress? For some, it could be engaging in a hobby, cleaning, reading, writing, watching a movie or a favorite TV show, delving into social media, playing with a child or a dog.
Thinking of others: In moments of distress, consider someone else and what that person may be experiencing. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and find a way to help them. Telephone a family member, write snail mail to a friend, do something thoughtful for someone you love. Surprise them!
Sensations: Take your senses somewhere else entirely. Step into a cold shower or a hot bath, drink some herbal tea, smell a fragrant candle or fresh flowers, listen to some music.
All these strategies help. Here’s the thing: we don’t have to hold our hand over the flame of our feelings—and we don’t have to indulge in a foodfest to cope.
Distract yourself from the problem temporarily. This allows you to come back refreshed to whatever challenge or trouble you are facing. It’s important to note that distraction is a short-term strategy only. We are not advocating avoidance—that could make matters worse. We are advocating good timing and delay, finding a balance between facing your feelings and taking a healthy hiatus from those feelings.
Your wise mind will let you know the difference.