How You Can Use Distraction as a Tool to Cope

Whether you are at work, at home, or working from home, you continue to experience many changes in your routine that cause stress. Strong emotions have sucker-punched most of us this year as people struggle with grief, anger, disappointment and frustration over how COVID-19 has affected our lives.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic pill that can make those emotions disappear,” said Amber Olson, LCSW, with Memorial Behavioral Health (MBH). “But picture a toolbox with different coping strategies that you can open when your outlook needs a positive intervention. Distraction is one of those tools that might lessen the chances of strong emotions derailing your day, week or  month.”

Normally distractions are something we try to avoid–when we are trying to get things done, for example. But distraction is the ability to temporarily redirect your attention away from a strong emotion, which can sometimes allow the emotion some “cooling off” time, making it easier to manage.

What do positive distractions look like for you? They can be customized to your experience, schedule, budget and attention span.

  • Creative distractions: draw, write or build something.
  • Productive distractions: clean the floors, catch up on laundry, wash dishes or organize a junk drawer.
  • Feel good distractions: revisit a favorite book, funny movie or old television show.
  • Mind Benders: challenge yourself with a game that requires attention like Sudoku or a crossword puzzle.
  • Physical distractions: change the environment. Walk or hike somewhere. Exercise for a specific amount of time.

“Distraction does not replace the need for professional help if you are suffering from ongoing depression or anxiety,” Olson said. “But it can be helpful for those times when you just feel overwhelmed by an emotion and need a break from it.”

Need to talk? 

As behavioral health services across the state close temporarily in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Memorial Behavioral Health provides telehealth and phone appointments with their patients. In addition, MBH has established an emotional support hotline, available at 217-588-5509, to provide support to individuals who are experiencing anxiety or stress, even if they are not MBH patients.

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