Bismillah, In the Name of Allah (God), The Most Merciful, The Most Beneficient.
Distraction is your first and key element to finding recovery. It is a tool that will not only come to your aid in a crisis but also help you fight off the most vicious episodes (whatever your symptoms may be) and overall give you a sense of being able to cope. Strength and confidence will build, with time.
The main thing about distraction is that the activity actually provides relief from your thoughts. A lot of people mistake it for simply doing an activity, but if it doesn’t provide you with relief it’s not doing its job.
Needing distraction from your thought’s is necessary, your mind needs a break from your constant or relentless internal dialogue, worrying, anxiety and imagination. Every part of your body, biologically you would give a break, right? Well, when you are mentally experiencing distress, your mind isn’t. This means, you wont think clearer, but more foggy, you’ll be more stressed instead of refreshed and more tense and irritable rather than calm and composed. The longer this carries on, the worse your mind gets, struggling under a burden it cannot sustain. Using simple small steps you can begin to use distraction to free yourself, for a short time, from the worst of what mental illness has to offer.
Equip yourself with two things, a thought diary and one activity you enjoy. Practise writing down your thoughts each day focusing on when you felt distrssed, noting the time of day, where you are, what you did and your mood. (0-8, 8 being the most distress, 0 being none). Do this at the same time each day so you get into a routine. Do this for at least each day for two weeks. Once you have decided which pleasureable activity you will do, do it each week. You may not feel better or enjoy it as much straight away but this will get better. It just takes practice, like many things. Finally, make a worrying time, i.e i will worry about this at 8 pm at night for 30 mins. that means for the rest of the day, you can do other things.
Meanwhile, if you find relief in watching a movie, reading a book or magazine, spending time with friends, or playing a game, cards to word games or drawing to art or sewing. Invest some time each day, even if its 5 mins. To find out what you find effective or what works for you, will be trial and error. For example, I received no relief until suddenly after years, a math aptitude test was placed before me as routine protocol. As i completed the maths test, my mind altered throughout it. I had been particularly good at math at GCSE and without any effort on my part, after completing it, i felt cured. My mind was clear, i felt no symptoms, but there was also the absence of any mental health distress. I felt normal.
What happened; After years, my mind accessed a different part of my brain. Being naturally good at this made me focus on the mathematical problem rather than the one’s I had latched onto, in a default (automatic) mode. Completing one after another, my mind was applied in a non-stress and anxiety free element of life. I found relief and distraction! It took a long time but since then there have been many more, from movies of a specific genre, to accepting that self care is a good and positive thing to do, to games, counting in my head, reciting Islam’s prescription for removing anxiety , to art therapy, and just art (ive aways loved it), to being thankful to God vocally counting the things im thankful for. There are so many. Find out what works for you.
Once you’ve completed your thought dairy, look for the post on Thought diary explained. (to be posted) Here you will have a chance to learn more about yourself and further insights to your wellbeing.
Some people find that housework i.e cleaning is a really good distraction, some find that a massage is, or that going for a walk really helps. If you need a start or options here’s a list. Try one or pick what you like. It’s up to you!
Online gaming; Free sites with free games, pick what takes your mind off everything. Really engrossing and of course that you enjoy. A friend of mine loved Bejeweled Blitz, I loved Super Text Twist and Plants vs Zombies as well as Papa’s Freezeria and Burger Shop 2. If you end up playing something that seems childlike or surprising for you, don’t worry about it, your mind will feed off the one that benefits it. Tell your analytical self, take a back seat! Oh and have fun! It shouldn’t be about over competitiveness.
Stand Up Comedy is a great distraction, someone making you laugh can make you forget your worries and problems for a while. And thats not to be taken lightly. Laughter is the best medicine for the heart, is actually true. I’ve been saved by a comedy set, at least on one occasion. Use especially if your life gives a situation that can make you feel down, sad or teary.
Lumosity was great when it was free, the Zen games were calming and the different cognitive games really gave my mind a break. Unfortunately there is a charge now. http://www.lumosity.com. I would recommend it, but only if its free. I don’t believe in paying businesses for particularly mental/mind health tools, especially considering how much is suffered already by users.
Watching uplifting and feel good movies. It makes sense, if your mind is upset and you feel emotional, you don’t need racing action, suspense (tense) thrillers or dramatics or tear-jerkers. Your mind will rest easy on a subject that is stress free, and has an uplifting or feel good factor. (A friend of mine confesses hers is horror, but like I said as long as it works for you.)
Talking to a friend. Just talking over the phone or a visit can really make a difference. Having someone to confide in, or talk things through with, or just have a day in their life, can help you feel connected, understood and take your mind off your own worries. They can also be a great source of support.
Puzzles, word search, crosswords or board games! Try one, a childhood favourite or family memoir. Good games for adult game nights are Shout it Out, PIctionary, Guess the Logo and for the more adventurous themed nights in a whodunnit type game. Solo games are patience, solitaire, sodoku.
Read, a magazine in a subject that interests you, from food and cooking, to technology, science, fashion, to cars, photography, art, graphic design. There is so much to choose from, see your supermarket and take a browse. These also work as great rewards (see Thanking God post). For the more avid reader, novels in a genre again that has no basis to your issues. Stay clear as the objective is to distract your mind from your worries, not to ‘pick’ at them. I.E if you have suffered abuse as a child, even if that’s not an issue now, stay away from triggering upsetting memories.
Finally go for a walk, a bike ride or a train somewhere nice. Or take a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn more about. This will give you motivation to attend and also a chance to get to meet people, be in a different environment and see yourself expand into areas that give you pride and pleasure. There are groups run by Mind (see resources) that offer walking groups to gardening on a ‘slot’.
Sometimes, distraction can be just switching off from the world and taking a long hot bath, a bit of self-care, or sitting in your garden and taking a moment to breathe.
Until further notice, your only job is engage in distracting activity. If you get worked up because you have an appointment, and find yourself trying to mentally divide 300 by 25 whilst catching a bus/taxi, don’t worry. You’re doing really great!