Wise Mind Accepts: A is for Activities

Written by Karyn Hall

May 15, 2021

Distraction is a skill to use when you can’t change a situation. If you stay focused on what is upsetting you (like the Corona Virus) it won’t be helpful and can be overwhelming and depressing. Keeping up with the updates is important, but you also need a break. There are many ways to distract yourself. ACCEPTS is a way to remember the categories of distraction skills. The A stands for Activities.

Engaging in activities that are neutral or opposite to negative emotions can work to distract you until your urges to act in unhealthy ways decrease. Activities often affect physiological responses directly and can reduce the emotional pain that drives emotion mind behaviors. Distracting with activities can help your mood!

Activities include focusing your attention on a task that you really need to get done or a task that is tedious. Once when I was facing difficult comprehensive doctoral exams, I cleaned my oven. As a college student, I don’t think I had ever cleaned the oven. It wasn’t self-cleaning either. I am sure that someone watching me do this would think I was not thinking clearly (at best). Who does that? Well, it distracted me from the anxiety of the exams which determined whether I would graduate. My brain couldn’t absorb any more information, so cleaning the oven was a way to focus on a task that was tedious and took my mind off the exams.

Maybe cleaning doesn’t appeal to you as a way to distract. You can also rent movies, watch television, knit, clean, play games, go to an event, read, do crossword puzzles, cook, work on a hobby, learn something new or do something with friends. You can probably think of other activities that can absorb your attention so you are distracted.

What you do depends on what works for you and how distressed you are. Sometimes an activity like reading will work for moderate levels of distress while higher levels require something more active such as playing computer games or going out with friends.

You may not “feel” like or want to engage in an activity. You may experience a strong wish or urge to just think about the situation, but when there is nothing you can do in the moment, thinking over and over about the issue can increase your distress and suffering. So push yourself. How can you distract?

Live a skill-full life

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