Waking up to Unhealthy Distraction.
Every single responsibility we have in life could turn into a distraction. Work can take attention away from the family, friends can take attention away from studies, cleaning can take attention away from valuable time with children. Each individual experience prevents us from giving full attention to something else.
Our minds have a limited ability to be attentive, we cannot focus on everything at once. Distractions in themselves are not necessarily all good or bad. It comes down to how they are being used. Let’s dive in a little deeper on this topic and see what we can find.
How distraction has been active in my life.
It’s fair to say that I can be an easily distracted person at times. My attention becomes divided and my ability to focus decreases. When the balance in life is feeling off, I find that I become distracted quicker and more frequently.
I am finding that the balance in my life has been off. As a new mom, this role has been getting most of my attention. Taking care of my daughter Ada is of the utmost importance. But, so is taking care of myself as well as other aspects of my life.
Being someone who balances being in recovery, mental health, work, being a mother, etc, I need to make time for just me. With everything going on lately it is easy to get distracted. Getting distracted has taken attention away from feeling my emotions. The focus has solely been on being a mother and it’s taking a mental toll. It has also been easier to put neglect my own emotions. And for a while, I didn’t even realize that it was something I was doing.
My attention is much less often on doing things that are therapeutic for me such as playing guitar, writing, baking, reading, and getting to the recovery meetings I regularly attend. These are things that are important for me to do because they bring comfort and peace. I also haven’t allowed myself much time to just do nothing.
The Distraction of Inner and Outer Demands/problems.
It’s no secret, the demands of life can be very distracting. This includes both inner and outer demands.
Some of the outer demands that I experience include work, being a mother, and relationships. When I go to my job I am expected to show up and perform to the best of my ability. With the relationships in my life, I have to be attentive and present so that I can keep them healthy. And, as a mother, I must care for my daughter. These are just a few of my examples and I’m sure that you have a list of your own. Anyone of these things can take away from the next.
And, then there comes the inner distractions or demands. These can be expectations that we have of ourselves or things that we think we ought to be doing or even things that we think we have to be. We may place rigid ideas on ourselves and become distracted from just being who we are.
One downfall of distraction is the way that emotions can get turned off. When something feels uncomfortable or when emotions feel too strong it becomes easy to find something to take the mind away from them. Since the emotions are uncomfortable it can become desirable to avoid dealing with them. Distraction is a way to escape the current reality. This is where problems arise and things become unhealthy.
How distraction can be helpful.
Like I said not all distractions are bad, in fact, they can be quite helpful.
The other night my husband Travis and I were playing with our daughter and she tipped over and hit her head. She started crying right away. We started to make happy noises, smiling, and clapping our hands which quickly made her stop crying. We realized that we had just created a distraction for her that got her mind away from hitting her head. It was a matter of seconds and she was smiling right along with us. This is one simple way that distractions can be useful.
They can serve as coping skills in the moments where we need to step back. Used as a self-soothing tactic distraction can be effective in helping to change a current mood and ease uncomfortable feelings. To step back from a stressful situation to take a few deep breaths or recognize a negative mood and engage in something that distracts from being upset.
When it comes to pain a little distraction is ok, but when emotions start to be numbed out that is when it turns unhealthy.
Dealing with distraction
1. It begins with awareness.
It is important to become aware of how distraction effects day to day life. Focusing awareness allows us to pay attention which in turn helps us see clearly and in finer detail. Just like with any situation change cannot happen until you become aware of the current reality. You cannot become less distracted until you recognize that you are.
2. Focus attention on breathing.
I believe that no matter the situation you can never go wrong with taking a moment to step back and breath. It can help draw us out of what’s distracting. Breathing can help to interrupt negative thought patterns, ground us in the present moment, and help to calm the body and mind.
3. Make a list or reminders.
Making a list keeps things simple. It helps me to see clearly what needs to be done. Or leaving myself reminders to stay in the moment, let go, or check to see if I am distracted can also help.
4. Make time to do nothing.
We all need our own mental and physical space, so taking a moment to step away and disengage is important. And, when I say do nothing, I mean do NOTHING. Set down the phone, close the laptop, turn off Netflix, etc.
5. Do something that relaxes you.
If you are someone who simply cannot sit and do nothing, find something that brings you relaxation and takes your mind away from all other things. For me, this could be breathing, listening to music, or playing the guitar.
It is helpful to determine whether the distractions in your life are healthy or unhealthy. There are too many important aspects of life that need attention for us to be constantly lost in unhealthy distraction.
Maybe the current distraction began as a healthy distraction and turned. However, it started it is time to take life back from it. We need not be victims to either inner or outer distractions.
If you have been distracted too much don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s bound to happen. But waking up to it and deciding to find balance with all our responsibilities can be started right now. I hope you take the opportunity.
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My Life Experiment
Welcome! We are Travis and Casey Hagen, the writer's and owner's of My Life Experiment. As recovering Individuals, we are no strangers to leaving behind dysfunctional ways of living. Over the years we have become adept at managing our intense mental and emotional worlds. Finding healing from the past, peace in the present and new ways to bring about success for our futures. Life is meant to be lived. That is why we promote Healthy Life Experimentation Principles for connecting with ourselves, our relationships, and finding healthier ways of bringing about success in our lives. Stick around and pick up what we have learned. You will not be disappointed.
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