Could there be a method behind the well-intentioned friend that responds to another friend’s break up by saying: “Let’s get out of here and do something else, literally anything!” The overall concept of a distraction doesn’t have a good rep, often being associated with a negative trait or tendency.
Don’t Believe the Hype
People think of others as distracted when they aren’t performing at work, in relationships, or according to other commitments. But when is needing a distraction a means of staying healthy and caring for yourself?
The hype tells us that being distracted is selfish, but what if instead we shift our focus to self-serving?
The Healthy Distraction
A distraction can be self-care if it’s used for preservation as opposed to avoidance. It’s all in what is driving the need for distraction. A distraction can be considered healthy if it’s temporarily acting as a “breather.” Also, when it helps you to recover in some way to revisit whatever it is that you’re distracting yourself from.
If a situation is particularly challenging or stressful, a temporary distraction can help bring you back to a baseline in terms of mood regularity, stress levels, and overall perception. Your perception will affect how you move forward, so creating some space between you and the source of tension can work to your benefit.
Distraction for Pain Reduction
Studies demonstrate that distraction can be an effective form of pain management. Feelings and symptoms of pain can be affected by the brain. While it can impact physical pain, distraction might also be a viable coping mechanism for mental struggles, for example, after a breakup or difficult situation.
When to Cease Distractions
A distraction becomes toxic when it is no longer creating a reasonable distance between you and whatever is at hand but instead is used as a means to escape. Escapism can be understood as the opposite of mindfulness. Instead of drawing us out of our thought to later dive in deeper, it draws us outward and leaves us out. Escapism is a fast route to confusion and disassociation.
Adding healthy distractions to your life should have boundaries. Set hard and soft limits for what you’re willing to walk away from, as well as toward. Be mindful that your methods of distraction are not destructive or toxic habits. It might take time to recognize when your distractions are not adding to your self-care. But with time and practice, you’ll get there.