Distraction and Occupational Therapy

Anything that diverts your thoughts away from your problems and how bad you feel, is a good thing. You don’t always have to put yourself in a state of relaxation to do this. Simply reading a book, listening to music, or watching a TV programme can sometimes be enough to divert your attention away from unhelpful thoughts and your problems. The more you can get engaged with the diversion, the better. When doing stuff that does not require a lot effort, like listening to music, or watching TV, although it can be of help, it is all too easy to let your mind wonder back onto your problems and unhelpful thoughts. This is why sometimes it is better to carry out more active types of occupational therapy, like weaving a basket, painting a picture, or colouring in a mandala. If you are actively doing something that requires concentration, this will be more effective at distracting your thoughts from problems than passively dong something like watching TV.

When you are depressed, you will probably not feel like doing any sort of activity. The thought of it is overwhelming, and you may tell yourself you cannot face it. Then, not doing it will make you feel even worse because you may feel guilty about not doing it. But just remember this:

The thought of doing an activity is worse than actually doing it.

Let’s take an example. Your partner suggests you walk down the shop to get a carton of milk. ‘I can’t face it’, you may think. ‘I’ve got to get up, get washed and dressed, get my shoes and coat on, walk down there, maybe even have to say hello to the shopkeeper’ etc. These thoughts may overwhelm you, and you may feel it easier to just not do it. But if you break up the task into smaller sub-tasks, carry out each sub-task one step at a time, starting with getting up, having a shower, then getting dressed, and so on, you will find it is not so bad. The activity will (at least partially) take your mind off your problems for the time it takes to carry out the task. And if you manage to achieve it, you will feel better than if you had not bothered.