The daily conversation between my thoughts and me feels like an awkward attempt at picking up a girl.
Me: Hey, thoughts! Are you tired?
Thoughts: No, why?
Me: Because you’ve been running through my mind all day! *finger guns with a wink*
When your brain acts up like the Energizer Bunny, you try to find every possible way to slow it down. We throw down speed bumps, yield signs, and stop signs. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they do not.
For those of us suffering from racing or ruminating thoughts, we often rely on a simple, but innate instinct to combat them. We depend upon distraction. Just like jingling keys in front of a baby when they cry, we hope that we can get our minds off of whatever topic just long enough to move on. We want to forgot about it and just let it go.
I personally and professionally have mixed feelings about distraction. As a coping skill, it is by far the quickest and easiest to learn. It encompasses a multitude of activities. Distraction can be used in nearly any environment. It provides immediate, short-term relief when no other stress reducer may be readily available.
On the other hand, it does not always work. Depending on the how strong the thoughts or feelings are, distraction might not be enough to fight the good fight. In my experience, distraction works better for isolated incidents. For instance, someone cuts you off while driving. Instead of letting road rage kick in, you turn up the volume on the radio and go about your day. Distraction is not always as effective with more deep-rooted issues or chronic stressors. For example, you took on extra duties at your job in hopes that they would hire someone new. You decide to take a few days off to get your mind off of work. The big difference here is that when you return, nothing has changed. The trigger is still there. The work did not go anywhere, and there might be even more work that piled up while you were gone.
This is where one’s insight and judgment play a key role. It is up to the individual to decide if the trigger is strong enough to remain after the distraction. If the odds are in your favor, then distraction is appropriate. There is no problem with being more passive in this case. Take a walk. Watch TV. Listen to some music. If it seems that this issue will carry on afterwards, then it is time to look at other options. The situation may require a more direct plan of action such as reflection, communication, problem solving, reaching out for support, or processing.
Let my post stop distracting you from going about your day.
-The Caring Counselor