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By: Ema Gavrilovic, LPC

In my last post, I introduced the physical types of coping skills and how to utilize them. In this blog post, I will dissect coping skills farther into yet another type, the distraction method, to instruct readers on the best strategy to use them and during the most optimal times. And honestly, we have all utilized some form of distraction tool to avoid looming things that make us anxious. Whether that be procrastinating by playing videogames instead of studying for an online exam one thinks one might fail, attending a movie at a theater to escape the sadness of a poverty-stricken home for a couple hours, distractions abound and are one of the most common types of coping strategies people utilize without even being aware that they’re using a coping method! Let’s go over these forms over a series of four posts to get a better feel for them and to consider which you prefer to try out, resuming with the distraction set. 

Distraction Skills

With distraction coping skills, the primary objective is to, quickly, in a short-term fashion, absorb the mind into something else to relieve the pressure of the hard stimulus. Has one ever procrastinated a homework assignment by watching their favorite show instead? Engaging in a more desirable activity decreases the stress associated with doing the less desirable one. Historically, theatre has been a huge form of distraction from hard happenings during times such as the Great Depression. Record numbers of residents visited theater productions to escape the hard times for a couple hours. Reading a fictional fantasy and escaping into the world of dragons and mythical stories is another way to immerse oneself into a world unlike one’s own. Visiting social media and living vicariously through others, calling a friend to avoid overthinking, meeting with friends at a club to focus on the music and scene, creating art projects, doing a puzzle or Sudoku, and watching movies are other simple forms of distraction that may provide short-term relief to others.

Have you ever done any of these before to avoid something stressful?

The good part about distraction is that it gives your heart a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of daily life and its stresses. It’s great for short term relief in this regard, and it’s great to get through a crisis when one needs a quick breather. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to continuously remain distracted. For the long-term, this is not a solution. Not only is it unrealistic to read for seven hours straight every day to forget the current living situation, it also doesn’t resolve any underlying issues of the origin of the stress. One will never be able to face the stressor head on and solve it or alleviate it through constant distraction. Furthermore, distractions can become unhealthy if someone starts abusing substances such as alcohol to get rid of the pain.

This set of coping skills, the distraction kind, relieves tension for only a limited amount. As you read through them, are there some you already do? Are there certain ones that you can see yourself doing versus others that seem too unlike your style? The power of distractions depends on the type of stressor. Your response to the stressor will also command what style you are more likely to try. Your personality traits and interests, motivation to relieve the anxious feelings, and the presenting situation that is causing you stress are all factors in the type of distraction in which you allocate time. Furthermore, distraction might be the easiest one to remember during a stressful time, as distractions are technically all around us (i.e. televisions, phones). It is all right to use this form of de-escalation method as long as it doesn’t take over your life in trying to avoid the stress. Eventually, the stressor will need to be taken on head on. Regardless, as you habituate to empowering yourself, you’ll feel emotionally lighter, more sure of yourself and your worth, and more competent at handling tough situations.

Don’t forget to schedule a free fifteen minute telephone session with Owens today to accommodate this work into your daily practice by calling 847-854-4333.