Mostly when we think of the word distraction we associate it with negative experiences. For instance, “I was distracted at work and missed the deadline”. Distraction as defined in Websters Dictionary is a noun meaning “a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else” or “extreme agitation of the mind or emotions“. For me, however, distraction has been a powerful, positive force in times of extreme distress and turmoil. I first realized the power of distraction when I was in the middle of dealing with my unknown illness, researching 24/7, trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with me. I came across a story about panic attacks. This Doctor had one patient who always believed she was having a heart attack, although it was a panic attack each time. She had been to many specialists and had numerous medical tests completed all with the same result. She had a perfectly healthy heart, yet, she truly believed these panic attack were heart attacks every time. This Doctor told her that when she felt she was having a heart attack to start doing jumping jacks, for as long as she could. The patient protested, but the Doctor told her it would prove that she was not having a heart attack. During the patients next panic attack, she made herself do the jumping jacks. She did not have a heart attack. The exercise even forced her to even out her breathing which in turn helped calm the panic attack. The exercise also distracted her from her anxious thoughts, as she focused on her movements and breathing, which slowed the attack to almost a complete stop.
This is the story that gave me the idea to use distraction as a remedy. Whatever we focus our energy (thoughts and feelings) on, will amplify. If we are focused on how terrible our headache is, the headache will become all encompassing. The pain will worsen. When I was feeling sick, for a long time that was all I would focus on. I was literally making myself sicker. Concentrating on every part of my body and how awful it felt. My stomach, my head, my heart, my ears, my nerves, my brain and on and on. After hearing the jumping jack story, I decided to do something to take my focus off of myself and off of my illness. I went back to work part time. Although it was absolutely excruciating getting myself to go (I was literally physically and emotionally sick), once I got busy at work, I didn’t feel so sick. I was too busy moving, working and focusing on other things to focus on my pain. I started using distractions a lot more after this. If I was feeling really bad I would find something to do, anything from cleaning the floors to calling a friend, to distract myself. It worked almost every time. Distraction became my new super power.
Although now I am thriving and healthy, I still utilize distraction often. If I am feeling sad and really focused on the reason I am sad, I distract myself with writing in my gratitude journal, music, cleaning or even exercise. If I am feeling sick in some way, I do my best to make sure I am not focused on that sick feeling. I look for a distraction. I like to teach my clients the art of distraction. For instance, does this situation sound familiar? You have a decadent chocolate cake in your sight. but you are trying to eat healthier. You get really caught up thinking about cake and how bad you want the cake and how you can’t have the cake and how you wish the cake was as healthy as egg whites and wait there are eggs in cake right? And the cake… the cake… the cake! Guess what? You will probably eat the whole fucking cake and then really feel like shit. All you did for 2 hours was focus on that cake. Do yourself a favor. Either have a reasonable slice of the cake and move on or distract yourself from thinking about that cake. Clean something. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Read some jokes. Throw on some upbeat music. There are endless ways to distract yourself. Give it a shot!
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