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My Take

Positive Distractions vs. Avoidance

-Knowing When to Bury Your Head in the Sand-

I know that we’re warned about avoidance and to instead face our problems head on because otherwise they get bigger. In addition, suppressing emotions can very well lead to a breaking point at which time you may implode or explode. Been there, done that…trust me. You probably have too. That’s why I recommend HEALTHY distractions in a way that doesn’t involve avoidance.

Avoidance of course doesn’t help you resolve inner/outer conflicts, it tends to prolong the problem and locks you into the same damaging mindset and perspective. Getting out of the hole is pretty much impossible. However on the other hand I have also experienced periods of forcing myself not to avoid anything and to shoulder the load of ALL my anxieties/problems/feelings at once. How did that turn out? I think that’s rhetorical. You see I took it too far. There is a good side to avoidance and it’s all fine well and good to be reminded by others that “you’ll never get better if you don’t look at the problem.” And that’s true…you won’t. However I don’t think they understand the weight that we constantly live under and how very often we reach what I have termed for myself as “a crisis mode.’ Call me crazy…but when you’re trying to get started on a path of recovery you need to take one step at a time and definitely NOT bite off more than you can chew. It’s way too discouraging to fight and contradict your thoughts, patterns, etc. when it’s unrealistic that you will win at that particular battle. This isn’t a new comparison but I believe you can still win the war without winning every single battle. After all, winning the war is the goal! Another way to look at it is that babies don’t sprint do they?

So What am I Suggesting?

Good question, especially since I’m also trying to figure things out for myself. However what I’ve come to so far (and it’s been working) is that I need a balance and perhaps you do too. It’s incredibly important to challenge our unhealthy and…I’ll use the words distorted thoughts, for lack of a better term. There’s no question about this and I encourage you to begin that process as soon as you can and to try in the smallest ways even if you don’t feel ready. I NEVER felt ready (still don’t) but I had to take the plunge. I simultaneously believe that when we are approaching a level of being completely overwhelmed by emotions and thoughts, feel incredibly lost, can’t think straight, are in too much pain, etc., a short period of healthy avoidance can be exactly what we need.

When I write about knowing when to bury your head in the sand, what I’m actually saying is that we must find healthy distractions to pause (not permanently!) the fight that must take place. After all, if we are too injured to fight why would we march into a losing battle? We must heal and regroup until we reach a stable enough place to return to the battlefield. (I hate war so I really don’t know why I keep using it as an example but it seems really apt at the moment…) In other words when we feel too weak and and in pain to fight, we need and DESERVE a break!

But breaks are difficult for some of us, aren’t they? Some of us have to stay in motion otherwise we become deeply uneasy and troubled. Others of us are so depressed and hopeless that we can’t think of doing anything other than nothing – and mostly in bed. I’m sure many of us also feel both depending on the day/circumstances. This is why mental health is not a ‘one size fits all.’ Do you see what I’m getting at? Anything that claims ‘THIS WILL WORK’ is, well…let’s just say I strongly disagree. (And I resent it, but that’s a different story.) In other words, don’t listen to me!

Let me clarify that. Keeping your mind open to possibilities and strategies is essential..but you still have to find what works for YOU by interpreting it all and incorporating & rejecting. (Be cautious about rejecting things too quickly though as it may indicate that you have a problem in that area and perhaps really do need to look at it more. If you feel uncomfortable or threatened, chances are it’s an issue.) Long story short, build your distractions on a foundation of what you personally enjoy and find comforting or stimulating. It will probably require a kick in the ***, but I urge you to try. Here are just a couple of examples of what you can distract yourself with. Learning to use distractions in your favour is a form of practicing self-care.

  • If you don’t feel like doing anything and need a shut off button, try taking a nap. If you stare at the ceiling or toss and turn you probably need to find something else.
  • If you feel restless and anxious, sometimes doing a workout (particularly with bursts of energy like HIIT training) can help direct that negative energy. If you’re too tired for that a simple walk can clear your mind especially if it’s in nature like on a trail.
  • The moment your anxiety starts increasing drastically, don’t wait too long! Get yourself somewhere as quiet as possible; if you’re at school or work there’s no shame whatsoever in going to the bathroom. You can do deep breathing anywhere, but if you can close your eyes at the same time and relax your entire body it’s even better. I also find yoga to be very helpful.
  • Try things that connect your mind and body. We are often top heavy and it weighs us down. Bringing some of the energy down into our body can help rebalance that weight.
  • You can read, watch a TV series, watch a movie, listen to music or put on an interesting podcast. If you can’t get into it don’t give up; simply try something else.
  • Do something that requires some concentration but not enough that it burns you out more.
  • Pick a few simple things to do and view them as your goals during the day. Follow them like a schedule but in a relaxed and non-stressful way. As you tick off what you planned to do you may feel a bit better.
  • Work with your hands if that’s what you’re into. As I keep mentioning…anything to get out of your head and reconnect you with your body.

The bottom line: Don’t kick yourself when you’re already down. Even if you don’t believe you deserve kindness, do it as if it were for a friend. Be as kind and patient with yourself as possible…after all, you’re going through a lot and it’s a win every time you wake up and go to sleep! We all need mental time-outs sometimes!


What's YOUR take?