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Distractions Part 2

Last week I spoke about distractions that stop you getting on with what you truly want to do. As the queen of procrastination, I can’t even begin to tell you how good it feels to just get on with things and get that nagging voice out of my head! I hope you had a chance to try stopping that voice by getting on with things during the week.

This week, it’s still about distractions but in a different form. Distractions can actually be a good thing sometimes, obviously not when you’ve got to get on with something and you’re just finding any reason not to do it! If you’ve ever experienced anxiety or panic attacks about anything, this is where distractions can be your best friend. If you just get nervous or worry about things you can’t change or control, distractions can really help you out.

Here’s an example from my life. I’ve always been pretty scared of flying. I don’t know where it came from because I’ve not really had any truly awful experiences and any flights that I had a bad time on came after the fear started. The only thing I can really put it down to is irrational thoughts.

Over the years, I developed some coping mechanisms for dealing with flying that made me feel better about the situation. These were things like remembering a particularly bumpy flight when I was coming home from Australia. It probably wasn’t as bad as I remember but in my mind, it felt like it was really bumpy for the whole 8 hours of the flight. I’d think to myself “I managed to sit in awful turbulence for 8 hours so I can manage 2 hours to Spain”. This thought got me through a lot of bad times!

The problem was that I’d start getting anxiety before I got on the plane and it got to the point where I would be worrying from about 2 weeks before the flight. I started checking websites that showed flight history to see how long the average flight took. I’d check the weather in places all along the flight path to check there were no thunderstorms or hurricanes happening on the day I was flying. I wouldn’t sleep properly leading up to it and would constantly have a churning sensation in my stomach whenever I thought about it (so most of the day). In the end, I was so wound up that by the time we actually took off and it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected I felt a bit foolish.

Eventually, I was introduced to distractions for anxiety. I thought that what I was doing was making me feel better but actually, by continually finding solutions to any problem my brain could imagine, I was just feeding the anxiety. I was constantly finding ways of making myself anxious and reacting to it, investigating every problem and essentially making the anxiety worse.

At the end of 2017 I was told about the distraction technique (not an official name but it’s what I call it). Instead of feeding the anxiety by listening to every ridiculous idea that pops into your head, cut it off and do something else. By doing that constantly, eventually it pipes down. Every time it comes calling just stop it and start thinking about something else immediately, find something to do at work, on the internet, read, do a crossword, just anything that makes you think about something else.

In January of 2018 I had a chance to test this theory as I booked a holiday to Gran Canaria (cue anxiety piping up and saying “Ooh, 4 hour flight are you sure you can do this? There’s loads of sea to cross, it might be bumpy. How are you going to distract yourself for 4 hours?”. I’m not going to pretend it was easy but it was not as difficult as I thought it would be! I managed to keep most of the anxiety at bay. There was still a bit of a flutter every now and then but on the whole it worked. And I now use this every time I book a flight. I book the flight then promptly do something else. I concentrate on what will happen while I’m at my destination. Or I watch a film/read a book/check out something on the Internet. What I don’t do is all those things I used to do that fed the anxiety.

You can use this to shut that voice up in other situations too. For example – you’re trying to stop eating cake and all it thinks about is cake, reminds you about cake at every opportunity. Find something to take your mind away from cake and get completely absorbed in it. No longer thinking about cake (apologies to anyone trying to stop eating cake and I keep mentioning the c word).

Give it a try and see what happens x


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