10 Ways to Distract Yourself When You Feel Stressed Out!


Feeling Stressed Out!

Feeling stressed is incredibly uncomfortable. In the past, I felt like I had to endure the agony of distress to eventually solve my problems. Later, after Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), I learned that taking a break from my stress helped me more creatively or rationally solve my problems.

When These Skills Work Best

These skills work best when you are not in a crisis situation (a future post) and when you are able to focus on a task or activity. Even if you cannot maintain your attention for very long, a few of these suggestions can help you practice building the maintenance of your attention. Give yourself credit for how long you were able to do a task or activity without judging that you did not complete the activity.


Distraction skills can lead to chronic avoidance so you must define how long you will distract yourself. For instance, are you going to watch two movies for one day or are you planning to watch the entire series of Grey’s Anatomy (eighteen seasons and counting!) for a month?

Shorter periods of distraction are better than long periods that could turn into avoidance of the stressors of your daily life. Long periods of avoidance can worsen depression, lessen the feeling of competence, and it may lead to a sense of failure. Short periods of distraction give you a nice respite from your problems without those problems taking over your life.

10 Ways to Distract Yourself When You Feel Stressed

  1. Chat with a friend or family member. This can help a lot but make sure you are not being hyper-social and using socialization to avoid your daily activities and responsibilities. Set time limits on when you are available each day.
  2. Watch a television show or movie. If your attention is poor, try a short You Tube video, or watch a television show. If you feel like you need to immerse yourself in a story, then a movie might be the better choice.
  3. Meditate for five minutes. Using a guided meditation from an app like Insight Timer can greatly enhance this experience. Five minutes may seem daunting but when you are listening to a soothing voice-it can help you to get in the mood to meditate. Do not judge your busy mind; it is only trying to look out for you!
  4. Volunteer. You don’t need to sign up with any organization to volunteer. Take a look around your neighborhood or nearest park and pick up litter while listening to good music via headphones or earbuds. Doing something good for others and the environment can lift your spirits.
  5. Journal. Decide how long you want to worry about your problems and jot them down into a journal. Write down how you feel about your problems. What is it about your problems that make you feel like you can’t overcome them? Put your journal away after time is up knowing that you can revisit your notes later.
  6. Exercise. When I feel stressed, I do not want to move my body at all. I just want to analyze until the problem is resolved. Doing some type of exercise can help combat this feeling and help you to feel competent and successful. Sometimes I just stretch and call it a day, but even that helps sore and stressed muscles.
  7. Make art. Giving yourself a creative outlet can help distract you from uncomfortable feelings and transform your stress into something beautiful or enlightening.
  8. Eat something healthy. When we are stressed, we are likely to eat (or binge) on unhealthy foods. Try a new restaurant in your town that is healthy. Recently, my daughters and I discovered a place called Berry Blendz where we live; it is now our favorite place for smoothies. You could even try making a smoothie at home.
  9. Read about health. Health can cover mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Sometimes reading an article about how to best care for ourselves can help us take better care of ourselves when we are feeling distress.
  10. Prayer. I literally ramble to god all of the time, especially when falling asleep. Rambling to god in the form of a prayer helps me to express my emotions and frustrations, and it also helps me to be grateful for what I have right now. Try it. It may work for you too!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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