When I first started struggling with anxiety, I just wanted it to go away. I didn’t really understand what was going on and there wasn’t much information about it. Seeing various therapists helped but what I noticed was that most information and advice on anxiety involved a long time frame in order to ‘get better’. At the time, that was infuriating as I just wanted a quick fix, whatever that may be. Over time I developed my ways of dealing with it and one of those was distracting myself. So the below list is made up of the distractions that helped me deal with anxiety in the worst of times and can hopefully help you.
Music is such a great way to deal with anxiety whether it’s listening to it or making your own. There is a science behind listening to music with a rate of 60bpm, that can help induce a state of relaxation. But have you noticed how you develop your favourite songs for different moments? Well, that’s what I find helpful. For example, I had a uni exam and for most of the drive, I had ‘Ride’ by twenty-one pilots on replay and it just made me feel better. There’s no real science behind that but it worked for me on the day to get myself in a better headspace. Finding music that works for you can be one of the best distractions.
Playing guitar and singing also helped during some of the worst times. If you have an instrument at home, have a go at playing it and singing when anxious. Firstly, the instrument gives you something to focus on and the singing helps regulate your breathing. It’s a great way to take your mind off of the anxiety.
I’ve written a post before about how animals help anxiety which you can access here (https://www.zortex.co.uk/post/how-horses-helped-my-anxiety and https://www.zortex.co.uk/post/how-do-animals-help-with-anxiety ). Animals are a great distraction from anxiety as they are non-judgemental beings. They can provide comfort in their companionship or they can help with distractions either through playing, training, etc.
If you don’t have your own pet, you could visit animal farms where there are often opportunities to pet certain animals and feed others. You could also visit and friend who has a pet. The third option is to volunteer somewhere with animals such as a rescue centre. It’s a great way to build your confidence whilst also having an opportunity to be with animals and hopefully distract you from the anxiety you experience.
Unleashing your creative side is a great distraction from anxiety. You can focus on drawing, colouring, painting, sculpting, whatever takes your fancy! It doesn’t take a lot of brainpower meaning that your anxiety shouldn’t hinder you, but it does keep you busy.
Creating art is a great way to also practice being mindful, something that is heavily talked about when overcoming anxiety. You should empty your mind of all thoughts and only concentrate on the task in hand, noticing the lines, colours, etc.
It depends on how much you like art as o how successful of a distraction this will be. For me, it worked with lower levels of anxiety which was great if I was feeling stressed out or a little worried. The thing is, I’m not a very artistic person which makes sense as to why this wouldn’t distract me that much.
One thing that did work almost every time was focusing on a specific project. This is how I got through many university lectures. |I would set myself the goal of completing whatever tasks we had and that would be enough to keep me motivated and not let the anxiety take over.
Although some of us may be skilled multi-taskers, it’s unlikely you can focus on one project whilst worrying about other things. You stop paying attention to what’s around you and you focus only on what problem you are trying to solve or what milestone you are trying to reach.
Keeping your brain occupied is a great way of distracting yourself from anxiety, as long as the project itself isn’t causing you anxiety. It doesn’t have to be a major scientific project, but it’s just something to keep you focused. It can be something like sorting out your room or organising your desk.
Anxiety brings about a lot of physical symptoms and that’s usually what makes it unbearable. In my experience, the best way to deal with that, in the moment, is some kind of exercise (usually a fast-paced walk is enough to lower the anxiety). It burns off some of the adrenaline that anxiety causes and also channels it into something productive. You can use it as a distraction to either count how many steps you are taking, or which path you’re going to follow.
My only word of advice regarding exercise is to be careful. When anxious, your body is giving you that extra adrenaline to fight something or run away which means that it might not alert you to your limitations. If you go for a run, you can end up pulling a muscle and not realise until it’s too late. That’s why I prefer walking.
Another incredibly helpful distraction with anxiety is talking… about anything. This isn’t great if you are in a lecture or in a quiet place but for many other places, it can work. It helps with breathing but it also helps to get out of your mindset. Things can seem a lot worse when they are confined to your mind but just expressing how you are feeling can help make it easier. It’s hard to explain but it’s something that works for me.
Talk to your friends or family about anything. I find it helps more if they are trivial subjects as it’s hard to concentrate when anxious.
7. Fidget Spinners
Finally, you can use some kind of fidget tool to help distract you. It’s not something that helped me a lot, but it does help a large number of people. It makes you feel as though you are doing something and gives you something to focus on that isn’t taxing mentally. You can practise mindfulness techniques with them too which is always a plus in the long run.
Hopefully you’ve found some useful tips in this post that you can try out straight away and they should help in the actual anxious moment. If you have some suggestions, be sure to leave them in the comments and let me know which of the suggestions works for you!