Distraction has gotten a bad rap. In reading the many quotes about distraction, the prevalent theme is to avoid distractions at all costs as reflected in these quotes:
I would argue that distraction has an important role to play in our lives. I remember counseling a couple at the Cancer Center a few years back. She was in the midst of treatment, and she had a lab test or radiation therapy every day for weeks and one doctor’s appointment after another. They were being consumed by everything medical. I suggested they take some time out, do something fun on the weekend, maybe go see a movie, but they were reluctant. They couldn’t let go of focusing on the cancer. It was almost as if they had forgotten how to do anything normal.
There may be times when we need to give ourselves permission to step away for a bit, to not focus on “the problem,” whatever it may be. I don’t believe that problems require a 24/7 focus or that a distraction wastes our energy – in fact, distractions can help us feel renewed when we’re overwhelmed. I don’t believe that distractions are destabilizing as they can help us regain our balance and perspective.
It’s true that distractions can have a positive or negative impact, so it’s important to ask if the distraction is really a permanent escape or avoidance tactic or if it’s making real life better. Positive distractions hold our attention without stressing us out and thereby block worrisome thoughts. We can intentionally choose to take a healthy break which allows us later on to focus on the problem with more clarity and stamina. Distractions can include reading, exercising, watching a movie, playing a game, or creative hobbies such as painting, cooking, gardening, woodworking, knitting or meditative coloring. The bottom line is a distraction can be an effective coping strategy to reduce tension-filled moments or navigate monumental life challenges.
When there are moments of awkwardness or tension in our family, someone remembers to shout out “look at the bear!” And we remember and laugh. I’ve learned there’s a time and place for everything – a time to solve problems and face challenges and a time for distractions. So…look at the bear!
Join us the 2nd Monday of each month at 1:00 PM (MST) for a discussion related to this Blog. Request a Zoom link below, to join the discussion.
SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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