Using distraction to beat stress
Can you really take your mind off stress?
Hi, and welcome to video 5 in may stress busting series. In this video we’re going to be looking at using distraction to your advantage in beating stress.
Stress and our thought processes
When we feel stressed we tend to think more and more about our problems. We know that this level of focus would be a good response if there was danger ahead because it would give us the best opportunity to avoid it, but the danger usually isn’t there.
Thinking about problems is much like throwing fuel onto a fire. It just gets bigger. We can’t think properly in stressful situations because, as we now know, 65% of the resources of the brain have gone to the stress centre – the bit that cuts through rational thought. Thankfully, nature has provided us with a very handy solution. It’s something we all do, every day with absolutely no effort, and it’s called day dreaming.
Daydreaming as stress relief
It’s said that anywhere between 15 and 50% of our time is spent day dreaming. We might think of this as time wasted but it isn’t. Research into the brain has shown that it is working enormously hard when we’re in a day dreaming state. In fact, the brain is working 4 times harder than when we’re focusing on something. It fires up whenever we let our thoughts wander and burns white hot, guzzling more oxygen, gram for gram, than our beating hearts.
Scientists are now referring to this as our default network mode. We engage this when we’re thinking about our past experiences, imagining an event that might take place in the future, or trying to understand what other people are thinking. The brain is taking the opportunity to run through scenarios and come up with solutions.
Using distraction to beat stress
Have you ever noticed that when doing something as simple as taking a shower in the morning, when you’re thinking about all sorts of things, and nothing in particular, that very often something that’s been on your mind for a while now seems resolved? Likewise too, when we go to the gym, or go for a walk, or even if we go shopping – it’s no wonder they call it retail therapy. Anything that is effortless and distracts us for a good twenty to thirty minutes allows us to enter that day dreaming state.
Finding opportunities for distraction
So, when you’re stressed and finding it difficult to think or focus, or if it all feels it’s getting too much, take some time out:
- Go for that 30 minute walk, or run in the park
- Tidy up that cupboard you keep saying you’ll tidy
- Take a long shower or have a relaxing soak in the bath
- Watch that programme on TV you’ve been looking forward to watching
- Treat yourself to a nice relaxing meal with friends or simply have a cosy night in
- Maybe even have a little bit of retail therapy
Do anything which encourages you to let your thoughts wander. Give your brain that opportunity to enter into that mode where it can work hard for you.
When we come back to the task we left behind, we’ll be better able to concentrate and we might find that we already have the answer we’re looking for. We’ll certainly be able to cope better, that’s for sure.
Does distraction really work?
Who would have thought something as simple as taking a shower could help with stress? Try it. Give yourself permission to let go and see the benefits this will have in reducing your stress levels and increasing your mind’s potential to help you.
In the final video in this stress busting series, we’re going to be looking at quick stress busting hacks – things you can do right now to remove stress, so make sure you don’t miss it.