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Distracting Activities

When faced with an emotional crisis, it's important to take proactive steps to prevent the situation from escalating. Engaging in these activities serves to divert your focus from the emotional distress, allowing you to gain perspective and revisit the issue when you're in a better state of mind. Enjoy this exercise!


What Are The 2 Main Distracting Activities?

Creative Pursuits: Creative pursuits involve artistic expression through activities like painting, writing, crafting, photography, and music composition. Engaging in these activities provides a safe space for emotional expression, fosters a sense of accomplishment, and promotes mindfulness. It's important to approach these pursuits without judgment and be open to experimentation.

Physical Activities: This category encompasses movement-based exercises such as jogging, sports, yoga, dancing, and more. Engaging in physical activity releases endorphins, leading to improved mood and reduced stress. It also offers a range of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and increased body awareness. It's crucial to choose activities that align with one's fitness level and preferences and to explore a variety of options to keep things interesting.


What Can You Do?

Compile a roster of diverting activities you can employ to break a potential emotional crisis. Complete this task once, and revisit it periodically to update your list.

Step One: Enjoyable Pastimes

Initially, consider activities that bring you joy during your leisure time. This could encompass a favorite hobby or a relaxing pursuit you typically engage in. It might involve reading books, watching movies, spending quality time with your pet, or immersing yourself in music.

Ensure your choice is something easily accessible on short notice. Avoid selecting activities that are impractical or potentially regrettable. For instance, extravagant trips like cruising the French Riviera should be excluded, unless you reside in Europe and have a boat. Additionally, steer clear of unhealthy habits like excessive drinking, impulsive spending, or overindulging in food. Dedicate a few moments to reflect on this and jot down five activities.

Step Two: Compilation of Enjoyable Distractions

To provide you with additional suggestions for activities that can help divert your focus when you're grappling with intense emotions, we've assembled a list of pleasurable pursuits below. Whenever you feel inclined to engage in any of these activities, simply mark a check next to it.

Here are some additional examples of activities that can help distract you when you're feeling overwhelmed:

  • Explore a nearby park or nature reserve

  • Try a new recipe or bake something delicious

  • Take a photography walk and capture interesting moments

  • Join a local club or group related to your interests

  • Engage in DIY crafting or home improvement projects

  • Attend a live music performance or concert

  • Volunteer for a cause you're passionate about

  • Practice mindfulness or deep breathing exercises

  • Attend a workshop or seminar on a topic that interests you

  • Write and send a handwritten letter to a friend or family member

  • Experiment with a new hairstyle or makeup look

  • Visit a thrift store and search for unique treasures

  • Explore a nearby town or city you haven't been to before

  • Organize a small gathering or dinner with friends or family

  • Participate in a local sports league or recreational activity

  • Try a new form of exercise or fitness class

  • Take a day trip to a nearby tourist attraction or landmark

  • Attend a cultural event or festival in your area

  • Learn a new language or practice speaking one you're learning

  • Engage in relaxation techniques like deep tissue massage or aromatherapy.

Remember, the goal is to engage in activities that you find enjoyable and that can help take your mind off negative emotions.

Step Three:

After considering your usual sources of enjoyment and reviewing the provided list, it's time to create your own. Select 15-20 pleasurable activities that you can turn to when you're facing intense emotions and need a distraction.

Distracting activities can be a valuable tool in psychotherapy, particularly in the context of managing and regulating emotions. Here's how they relate:

Emotion Regulation: Distracting activities are often used as a technique to help individuals regulate their emotions. When someone is overwhelmed by intense feelings, engaging in a pleasant or absorbing activity can provide a temporary break from distressing thoughts or emotions.

Grounding Technique: Distracting activities can serve as a grounding technique, helping individuals to stay present and connected to reality. This can be especially important for those who struggle with dissociation or overwhelming emotions.

Coping Mechanism: They are a form of coping mechanism, allowing individuals to cope with difficult emotions in a healthier way compared to engaging in harmful behaviors or ruminating on negative thoughts.

Building Resilience: Engaging in enjoyable activities can help individuals build resilience. It provides them with a repertoire of positive coping strategies that they can use in various situations.

Skill-building: Some distracting activities, like mindfulness exercises or certain hobbies, can also serve as skill-building exercises. For example, mindfulness can enhance emotional regulation skills.

Therapeutic Alliance: Discussing and exploring distracting activities with a therapist can strengthen the therapeutic alliance. It shows that the therapist is actively engaged in helping the individual find practical tools to manage their emotions.

Personalized Interventions: Therapists may work with individuals to identify and tailor a list of distracting activities that are particularly effective for them. This personalized approach can lead to more successful implementation.

Preventing Crisis Escalation: Distracting activities can be part of a safety plan for individuals at risk of crisis or self-harm. They provide a constructive way to intervene and disrupt a potentially harmful emotional spiral.

Overall, integrating distracting activities into psychotherapy is a way to empower individuals with practical tools to navigate their emotions, foster resilience, and promote overall well-being. It's an important aspect of many therapeutic modalities, including dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).


Distracting activities serve as constructive methods to divert attention from overwhelming emotions and negative thoughts. Engaging in these activities offers several benefits, including providing an emotional outlet, promoting a sense of accomplishment, reducing stress, and fostering mindfulness. The audience should consider incorporating distracting activities into their routine as a means to effectively manage emotions, enhance well-being, and develop healthier coping strategies.




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