Occupying the mind intensively is one of the most effective methods I know as a distraction from tormenting thoughts: the more the mind is occupied the less chance it has to ruminate or to pay attention to unwanted thoughts and intrusive images such as those experienced by the sufferer of OCD or PTSD. Also for the sufferer of GAD or agoraphobia or indeed any anxiety disorder keeping the mind intensively occupied reduces the tendency to be preoccupied with fear or worries . Admittedly it is harder to distract oneself from unwanted images that seem to remain in the mind’s eye no matter what we do however the more the mind is focused else where the more such images are mitigated and the less distressful their affect. Often such activity needs to have a goal at the end of it such as passing an exam. I have found that studying and using the computer, especially the construction of this web site, are good distractions. Art and craftwork are also useful as a means of distraction giving the sufferer something different to think about along with a sense of satisfaction. Writing of any kind is also an excellent distraction even if it is hindered for people with OCD such as myself who can get preoccupied with checking obsessions and compulsions concerning one’s written work. Writing offers not only a distraction but is very therapeutic in a way difficult to define, perhaps as a creative process it releases some of our inner conflicts at a subconscious level.
Keep a journal.
Similar to the above suggestion concerning the therapeutic benefits of writing, however this is an even more powerful therapeutic form of writing as it gives one the opportunity to empress one’s thoughts uninhibited. Keeping a journal can help you to get a more rational perspective upon your frightening worries or exaggerated concerns especially for sufferers of OCD and GAD.
Keep a record of positive occurrences throughout the day.
Often we can get so bogged down in all the negative events in our lives whether real or imagined as a result of our respective illnesses that often we feel overwhelmed as though life is one round of continuous suffering. When something positive happens write it down to remind yourself that life is not all doom and gloom. Such positive occurrences could be something small; something we did that went right for a change, an event that made us feel better, more positive. Such as a letter or phone call from a friend, a pleasant surprise, a warm summers day, a dreaded event that actually was not as bad as we had anticipated and so on. And best of all record any triumphs over your illness, such as a walk to the shops for an agoraphobic or a conversation with a neighbour for a social phobic.
Relaxation and meditation.
Relaxation and meditation can have a profound effect upon our mood, and when our mood is improved often our courage to face our fears and cope with our illnesses also improves. Also yoga and Tai chi can have a similar effect and are something positive with which to occupy us and provide distraction. However for a few people these can cause problems, for me meditation and particularly relaxation had a tendency to make my chronic daily headache worse, see my personal self help suggestions concerning problems of this nature. However for most people the practice of meditation, relaxation, Tai Chi, Yoga and other similar practices on a regular basis can certainly improve ones mood and outlook considerably. And it is well worth taking the time and effort to learn to relax and meditate.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison
This most certainly applies to music, what uplifts and inspires one person can depress, stress and agitate another. Therefore one needs to find ones own selection of music. The right kind of music can help to lift our spirits, calm us down or excite us out of a state of lethargy and depression. In my own experiences music can indeed have a profound effect upon my mood and my favourite piece for the ultimate relaxation experience is Johann Pachelbel’s canon particularly the last piece entitled flourishing. There are many other pieces of music that make me feel uplifted and more positive however these may have no effect upon others and most people have their favourites and at times when one is depressed or tense it might be an idea to take time out and simply sit and listen to what ever music helps you. Compile a list and make a collection designated for such times when you need a bit of comfort or you need lifting out of depression or apathy.
Everyone is familiar with endorphins and the positive effects upon the mood that these hormones have and that exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can activate these hormones and consequently uplift our mood. However caution should be taken when embarking on any kind of exercise particularly exercise that is strenuous and increases the heart rate and you should always consult a doctor if there are any doubts about health. Personally I think that jogging is for athletes and other professional sports men and women and I never gained much from this type of exercise. My doctor once told me that she considered that jogging was not a suitable exercise for anyone. Less strenuous exercise such as walking can be very uplifting on pleasant sunny day and particularly invigorating on a windy day. In fact walking is probably the best exercise one can undertake.