It’s time for the second version of self-care posts. (Catch the first segment here) Tonight is all about distractions.
When you feel yourself in a bad mood, stop the negative thoughts by distracting yourself. The thing you choose to distract yourself with should be interesting and intriguing to you. Doing this thing should either require your full attention, or be so absorbing of your attention that you will forget yourself. Watching a movie or TV show, surfing the net, reading a book, listening to (energizing) music, calling a friend, and exercising are good examples of the latter, while engaging in detail-oriented tasks like writing, programming, cleaning your house, weeding your garden, playing music or singing or otherwise being artistic, or organizing your files are examples of the former.
You should do something you like doing if at all possible. Running can be a fine distraction if you like exercising or find it absorbing, but it won’t work out well if you don’t.
Distraction is not typically thought of when it comes to coping or self-care. One reason why distraction is not more popular as a means of coping with negative moods is because it goes against “the norm” which suggests that you have to face your problems before you can escape or deal with them. From this point of view, saying that its okay to distract yourself when you feel bad is like saying that denial is a good way of life. This is a false argument, however. It is true that a certain amount of facing or learning to accept negative emotions is a healing thing. The less you struggle against negative emotions, the less you have to feel badly about. It is also true that sometimes negative emotions can be overwhelming, and you really need a break from them. You need to find a personally appropriate balance between dealing directly with such moods and escaping from them in order to have the best chance of healing. Compartmentalizing it to save for a time when you are ready and able to handle the feeling or problem.
Now for the fun part! I’ve put together some of my favorite distraction techniques, and again you need to do what works for you. Something to lose yourself fully in, once you do stick to it.
Cleaning – If I feel overwhelmed I am usually handling that emotion by organizing or cleaning my house. The distraction is productive, but it also has huge neurological benefits. Cleaning provides a lot of repetitive and rhythmic movements, which has been proven to calm the brain and body (similar to why we rock a crying baby), in the walking around, pushing the vacuum or broom, wiping the counters. Plus I get to put on my favorite tunes (the past few days it has been Christmas music…never too early) and lose myself in the music and monotony of cleaning.
Coloring – I am a huge fan of this distraction technique. I have always loved coloring, not doodling or drawing, but a good, clean and new children’s book. I tend to lean towards using colored pencils, but have been known to use skinny markers, too. It’s easy and gives me something light-hearted to focus on in that moment. When I was working with Crittenton Children’s Center and Operation Breakthrough, in the self-care training portion, a skill taught and practiced was a graduate level version of coloring, which is Mandalas. There are a ton of books you can pick up at Target, Walmart, any store really. I have also found a bunch of different patterns through this site. Print the ones that appeal to you and have at it!
Organization – This could be taken similar to cleaning, but in my case I like to organize my thoughts. My mind is so full with different hats I wear in my life: Mom, Wife, Sister, Daughter, Stella & Dot Stylist, Maid, etc. I tend to feel overwhelmed and that I am not doing as much as I should be. Organizing my mind somewhat coincides with coloring. I love planners and hand writing schedules. If my brain is feeling very hectic, I bust out my colored pens (Sharpie pens are the bomb and I just found these, and am obsessed!). Each person or event in my life has a color, so my month and days are organized by color, time and date. It’s a glorious rainbow. Ha. I also love to-do lists. I color code those as well and separate them out by subject (Home, Family, Stella & Dot, etc). These things help me get out of my head and prioritize what needs to be done, pushing aside the less important items.
Exercise – When I was working full-time as a therapist, nightly walks before dinner were a must. We would get home, strap the kids in the stroller, leash up the dogs and walk. Even if it was just 15 minutes. It was Brian and I’s time to just talk about the stressors at work. This allowed both of time to truly listen, with no other distractions and get rid of stress. Again this technique is perfect for re-balancing the brain through the rhythmic and repetitive motions of walking, plus exercise releases endorphins to the brain that increases mood.
I will say that these self-care tips are not done every day, except the exercise…usually every day. Ha. These are usually only whipped out when I have had a crazy day and can’t or don’t want to deal with the problems. I know eventually they will be dealt with, but for those times where my brain is not able to problem solve, I turn to a few of these ideas.
Up next is a section that is VERY hard for me to do, one that takes practice, one that takes time and a mind to remember to do so…Quiet, focused mind. This will include mindfulness, finding your inner mantra and unplugging.
Hope you have a fantastic Thursday night and ENJOY!