I receive questions almost daily from people who experience anxiety and/or worry. Today, it was “Is there an easy way to distract myself when I’m feeling anxious?”.
Here’s an idea I use with my coaching clients. It is effective with anxiety and worry, and I’ve used it to distract myself and reduce my awareness of physical pain.
By the way, anxiety and worry are different states, though they often get used to mean the same thing. Anxiety tends to be a whole-body experience; you feel it all over, particularly in your gut. Worry is more cereal, it happens mainly in the mind, without the same bodily sensations. This post explains anxiety in more detail.
Your mind can’t do two things at once, so occupying it with something that interests you is a great way to distract yourself and get some relief from anxiety.
If you want to distract yourself from feeling anxious it’s all about focus. The mind can’t do two things at once, so when you give all your attention to something, the worries have trouble creeping in. Do it repeatedly and you will also be training your mind to behave differently, learning a new skill that can serve you well in the long run, as well as helping you in the here-and-now.
Here’s how: When your mind begins to fill with a worrying thought, focus on something outside yourself, physical in your surroundings. It can be anything; a leaf, a pattern in wallpaper a design in a rug; a cloud in the sky; the shape of a building. Give it all your attention and notice as much detail as possible. If your mind tries to pull you back to your anxiety, don’t let it.
I have also written this post, which includes different distraction techniques: 7 Steps to Help Control Worrying. The title says worrying, but it is just as effective if you want to distract yourself from feeling anxious.