No matter who you are, chances are you’ve experienced anxiety before. For some people, this universal state of mind happens too often. Fortunately, there are some ways to manage anxiety. Though there can be root causes for a person’s anxiety, this article is going to focus on easy distractions for dealing with anxiety. Deep exploration into causes of anxiety can take time, and unfortunately, free time is often a luxury. However, distractions are quick, easy, and allow you to work on your anxiety outside of your therapist’s office. Let’s use a scenario to easily explain these distractions.
It’s Sunday night and you have to give a presentation Monday morning. It’s been a while since you’ve had to publicly speak, so you’re not sure what to expect. Before you know it, thoughts start to race through your head...
- “What if I’m not experienced enough?”
- “What if I mess up during the presentation?”
- “Am I knowledgeable enough on this topic?”
- “What if people find me boring?”
The thoughts go on and on. You can feel the anxiety in the pit of your stomach as your concerns start to spiral. Though this situation is truly unpleasant, it is also a prime opportunity to practice distractions.
Counting Backwards from 100 By 3
One deadly trap of anxiety is its vicious cycle. One negative thought can easily lead to another as shown above. However, doing mental math is an easy way to get out of this negative spiral. If you have time before your presentation (e.g., 20 minutes), do some math to calm you down. Start at 100, and count backwards by 3 (i.e., 100, 97, 94, 91, 88…). You’ll soon realize that this is a little challenging, which is exactly the point. By shifting your attention to math, you’ll focus less on your perceived, anxious situation. You can get out of your head, which can stop you from focusing on “what ifs” (e.g., “What if the presentation goes poorly?”). Though we’ve been discussing public speaking, this distraction works with all occurrences of anxiety. Whether it’s work, financial, or school related, counting backwards from 100 by 3 can temporarily distract you from your anxiety.
Have a Conversation with Someone Fun
Whether it’s the night before the presentation, or 30 minutes before you have to speak, another easy distraction for dealing with anxiety is to talk to someone that’s pleasant, someone whom you know will make you feel better. This can be a friend, lover, or family member. Whomever you pick, make sure that talking to the person is going to raise your spirits. Once again, you’re simply trying to find a distraction with your current anxiety. Sitting alone is a perfect environment to ruminate and feed into that stress. When you do reach out to someone, try to inquire about their day, or fun times that the two of you have shared. Though it can be useful to discuss how public speaking causes you anxiety, discussing the stress isn’t going to distract you from it. Once again, deep exploration of one’s anxiety is truly useful, but not always feasible. Unlike simple distractions, exploration takes time and care to do well, which isn’t always available.
Play Your Favorite Song
It’s beneficial to listen to music the day before the presentation or while traveling to it. Music is a great, easy distraction for dealing with anxiety. Not only is music a wonderful form of self-care, but it can also redirect your mental focus. Once again, we want to avoid the spiral of anxious thoughts. To meet this end, play your favorite song when you’re feeling stressed. It’s even better if the song has lyrics to sing along to. Be present during the experience as you match the performer’s vocals. If your favorite song is an instrumental, try to notice all of the moving parts. For example, what is the bass doing? What’s going on with the percussion section? What harmonies do you hear? It may take more than one song to distract you from anxiety, so do this process for as many songs as you like.
Do Something Active
Getting up and moving around has several benefits, one of which is an easy distraction for dealing with anxiety. If you’re worried about public speaking in the morning, try doing a physical activity. This can occur the night before the presentation or the early morning of it. Exercise, releases endorphins, which improves one’s mood. Being active also allows you to focus at the task at hand, instead of the stressful situation. Plus, there are many different ways to be active.
Riding a bike, going to the gym, playing a sport, and even having sex are all easy distractions. If these seem too time consuming, other activities are faster. Going for a quick walk, practicing yoga, and climbing the stairs at work can all take less than 10 minutes. The next time you’re feeling relaxed, take some time to figure out an activity that’s feasible and appealing to you. That way, it’s easier to fall back to the activity when you’re feeling anxious.
A Quick Caveat
After reading this article, you have more distractions for dealing with the stress of public speaking, as well as anxiety in general. However, remember that these distractions are just that, distractions. Persistent anxiety often has deeply rooted causes, which can include internalized messages growing up, learned coping skills, or simply being in a chaotic environment. Essentially, anxiety can be a complex subject with complex causes. If you feel as though distractions aren’t enough, try seeing a therapist at the Center for Growth. They can help you explore the root causes of your significant anxiety.
Distractions possess many benefits. For instance, they allow you to clamp down on stress when you’re not in an ideal space to express it (e.g., at work, in a classroom, at a doctor’s office). Distractions also function as an in-between activity as you work on the core anxiety issues with your therapist. Journaling, yoga, and all the previously mentioned distractions are useful interim activities. Simply make sure that they are engaging for you. A boring distraction is an ineffective one, which can even add to your pre-existing anxiety. After reading this article, make sure you take some time to figure out the distractions that are right for you.