Hey, hope you’re doing well.
Today’s post is going to be centred around something which I’ve recently had my eyes opened up to, and could potentially be revolutionary in the way I consider my own habits and coping strategies for dealing with difficult feelings and situations.
Looking at the image above can create a bit of a headache, however, the irony is that this image is supposed to depict a mindmap of how to focus when you’re feeling distracted – yet the overwhelming choice of options is distracting in itself.
Could distractions actually be making your problems worse?
We are so often encouraged to deal with our problems in healthy ways – go for a walk, eat a good diet, turn off social media, create a to-do list etc.
Yet these distraction methods can seem futile, as they don’t actually deal with the problem or allow you to navigate your way through an issue; they simply act as a blocker between yourself and the bad feelings.
You don’t like being alone, so you take yourself out on a walk, do some studying or call a friend whenever you’re in the house alone. This helps you to feel better because you’re staying busy and not sitting at home thinking about how lonely you are.
Doesn’t seem like a problem, does it? This seems like a perfectly healthy way of dealing with feelings of loneliness and avoiding potential sadness.
However, this means that there’s no chance for you to actually encounter the feelings that you’re avoiding. Because you’re so scared of feeling lonely, and the potential sad feelings, you are not allowing yourself to get through it.
Getting through bad feelings and coming out of them is one of the most impactful ways of overcoming them, and teaching yourself that nothing bad has happened.
All that being said, there is a place for distractions and healthy coping mechanisms, provided that it is helping you to eventually overcome how you’re feeling – rather than complete avoidance of uncomfortable emotions.
Frustratingly, the more we avoid emotions, the more impactful and powerful they are when they eventually hit us (think of it like a debt which keeps gaining interest the more you avoid it).
The reason that this has been so revolutionary to me, is that a good 75% of my life has been made up of distractions.
I’ve always been very busy, I have a packed to-do list most days and I sometimes wonder why I’m running around like a headless chicken and always stressed, yet other people can comfortably chill out all day and have no worries.
It has been recently brought to my attention that my way of dealing with things is actually causing me to experience more volatile and stressful emotions because I avoid difficult feelings or situations for so long that they eventually build up and explode.
My way of coping with things is very much to think “If I do X then I’ll probably feel guilty. So I’m going to do Y instead, because then I can avoid the feeling of guilt” – What happens then, is that I repeatedly do Y, until I get into a situation where my only option is to do X, and then I have to encounter a feeling which I have avoided for a very long time, and I have no idea how to deal with it.
Actual real-life examples of this in my life are:
“I’m not going to go to that event, because I don’t want to feel awkward. I’ll stay at home instead because I’ll feel better” – Outcome: Next time that I have to go to an event, I have to deal with the feelings of awkwardness, which I have no idea how to navigate, as they’ve been avoided for so long.
“I don’t want to buy [insert whatever here], because I’ll feel guilty about spending the money. Therefore, I’m going to do without it” – Outcome: Next time that I have to spend my money on a large purchase, the feelings of guilt will be stronger and I don’t know how to deal with it.
I think you get the point now. It’s funny because I’ve built a lot of my coping strategies on avoiding awful feelings when actually that could be the thing that’s making me feel worse?
However, I think this is going to be a very positive step forward, and will actually allow me to enjoy the things that I’ve previously been employing as coping mechanisms.
I guess the ultimate goal is things like:
- being able to go to the gym without “having to do it because otherwise, I’ll feel guilty”
- Going for a run just for the fun of it, rather than “I’m really stressed and anxious, I should just run it all off”
- Spending or saving my money without it being a tool for feeling better about myself
- Going to events and accepting that I am a bit awkward sometimes, but actually just embracing that rather than hiding from it
Are there any things like this you could apply to your life?
Thanks for reading,