Distract Yourself from Stress

Often your thinking turns to worries and fears when you have too much free, unfocused time. This unbridled worry can induce extra stress. You may find something to worry about no matter what’s going on in your life. It seems that as soon as one stressful situation is resolved, you find something else to be distressed about.

Perhaps the simplest way to calm your mind is to distract yourself by focusing on some other thought, interest, or activity that holds and redirects your attention. This idea may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often people overlook this option.

Psychologists know that concentrating on two things at the same time is very hard. Therefore, if your mind is flooded with distressing thoughts, change course. Find something else to think about. You can eliminate a negative image by replacing it with another — say “white polar bears.” Every time a worrisome, undesired image or thought presents itself, distract yourself with some other, more positive thought or activity.

Here are some suggested thoughts and involvements to consider:

  • Recall something in your life you’re grateful for.

  • Remember something good that happened to you.

  • Think of something you’re looking forward to.

  • Go to the gym.

  • Read a book, newspaper, or magazine.

  • Watch some television.

  • Go to a movie.

  • Talk to a friend.

  • Work or play on your computer.

  • Play a sport.

  • Immerse yourself in some project or hobby.

  • Listen to some favorite music.

  • Work in the garden.

Jumping into any of these thoughts or activities doesn’t mean that you’re eliminating or changing your stressful situation, but it can pull you out of your ruminations, worries, and upsets until you come up with a longer-term strategy.

Like everything else in life, you can overdo distraction. Vegging, zoning out, or losing yourself in some pleasurable activity can be relaxing and provide some balance to other parts of your stressful life. Too much distraction, however, may not be better. Spending hours watching TV, playing a computer game, or browsing online may be distracting, but you may be missing out on other more rewarding experiences. Go for balance.

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