As a concept ‘distraction’ sounds basic. A sort of “look at the pretty lights,” wishy-washy technique. However, to assume this would be a big mistake. Distraction is an extremely powerful mental health tool.
This was recently tested when a friend of mine (who doesn’t suffer from anxiety) had a terrible stomach bug, and in between being sick she burst into tears and started to panic about the next batch of nausea. So I used a distraction technique. “I know you feel awful and it’s all very intense right now, but I promise, by this afternoon you’ll feel better. So let’s try and focus on something else, just for now.” I then casually asked her to name her five favourite cartoons from childhood. “I’m being serious,” I said, “Imagine that you have to come up with five, it’s like a superhero mission!” That’s the point of distraction to be honest, don’t do it half-arsed. Really focus on the task as though you’re on a game show or something! By the time she’d named the final cartoon, she felt better. Yes, she was still sick again ten minutes later, but the game helped to ease the symptoms.
That’s exactly how distraction techniques work. They won’t cure the problem, but they will take the strain off the brain for a while and allow it to recover.
My favourite distraction techniques
The alphabet game. The beauty with this is that you can apply it to almost ANY topic.. my friends and I even did bible references (long story). Names, food, countries, films, bands, you name it. Go through the alphabet A-Z and name something in the chosen category beginning with the next letter.
The top five game. Ever read the book; High Fidelity? Or seen the film? Well it’s basically that. Pick your top five songs, top five bars, top five super heroes…
Who’s in it – Think of a film or TV show and list all of the characters in it (first name and last). Granted, this game will only work if you know the film/show really well. So don’t pick something that you’ve only seen once!
Top Trumps – This is a two player game. But it’s a classic!
Crafty stuff – Knitting, drawing, and baking are great. Baking in particular, is effective because the brain really has to concentrate on the process. Novelist Marian Keyes credits baking with saving her life.
Feel free to share any techniques of your own. I’d love to hear about them!
It’s the Mind Awards tomorrow… eeek! Starting to feel nervous. Check out the Mind website around 7pm. The event will be streamed live.