Distract, Relax, and Cope!

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​The Distract, Relax, and Cope technique is a Dialectical Behavior therapy technique that can help you with anxiety and feelings of dissociation that many are experiencing during this stressful time. 

1. Distract:

Sometimes, the best way to distract yourself from painful emotions is by doing pleasurable activities. You do not have to wait until you feel overwhelmed to try a pleasurable activity. The recommendation is to do something pleasurable every day as it can help stave off depression by activating endorphins in the body.

Some examples of pleasurable activities you could try are:

  1. Talk to a friend on the telephone
  2. Text or call family
  3. Have a virtual hangout with friends/family
  4. Exercise
  5. Cook your favorite meal
  6. Cook a recipe you’ve never tried before
  7. Go outside and play with your pet
  8. Give your pet a bath
  9. Stretch your muscles
  10. Do a guided meditation 
  11. Go out and watch the birds and other animals
  12. Find something funny to do like read the Sunday comics or watch a comedy special on Netflix
  13. Listen to a podcast on a topic you find interesting or entertaining
  14. Watch a funny movie
  15. Collect funny video clips you can watch when you’re feeling down
  16. Take a nap
  17. Play video games
  18. Do a puzzle or build a Lego set
  19. Finally, do not hesitate to call a crisis or suicide hotline if you need to talk to someone (Dial 988)

Other things you can try to distract yourself are: Doing something for someone else can be very useful, distracting your thoughts by keeping a prayer or special saying with you, distract with tasks and chores, or distract by placing your hand on your belly and counting your breaths (or counting anything)

2. Relax and Soothe Yourself:

Relaxation is essential for our health and well-being. When you relax, your blood pressure lowers, your heart beats more slowly, and you can get out of your flight or fight response, which allows your brain to think of healthier ways to cope with your problems. A great way to relax and ground (perfect for dissociation) is to utilize the five senses. Focusing on and engaging with what you smell, see, taste, hear, or feel in the present moment can help you relax and soothe. 

Smell

  1. Incense or candles
  2. Oil or perfume
  3. Baking
  4. Outside smells like flowers or fresh-cut grass
  5. Hug someone
  6. Use a shower or bath bomb

Sight

  1. Make a collage out of magazine words or pictures
  2. Observe nature
  3. Visit a virtual museum or zoo
  4. Look at old pictures that carry sweet memories

Hearing

  1. Listen to music that suits your mood or that might give your mood a boost
  2. Podcasts on gentle topics
  3. Open your window and listen to nature sounds like birds chirping, the wind moving through the trees, or raindrops hitting the ground
  4. White noise machine or recordings of relaxing nature sounds before bed
  5. Listen to a Relaxation exercise on Youtube or your favorite app

Taste

  1. Enjoy your favorite meal. It is slow so you can enjoy the taste
  2. Chew gum or suck on hard candy
  3. Drink something soothing like hot tea or hot chocolate
  4. Suck on an ice cube
  5. Buy a piece of ripe and juicy fruit and eat it slowly

Touch

  1. Carry a soft material like a square of velvet in your pocket to feel when you need to
  2. Take a hot or cold shower and enjoy the feeling of the water falling on your skin
  3. Take a warm bubble bath or bath with scented oils
  4. Get a massage from someone you trust
  5. Give yourself a massage; Sometimes just rubbing your sore muscles is very pleasing
  6. Play with your pet
  7. Wear your most comfortable clothes

3. Cope:

Put your relax and distract skills into practice! Pick some from these lists that work for you or come up with some new ideas your own! Keeping your stress levels down keeps your cortisol down, which helps your immune system function better and promotes feelings of well-being. So, the next time you are feeling stressed, remember to distract, relax, and cope! 

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Written By:​
Claire Cotton, LPC-Intern
​Supervised by: Shannon Purtell, LPC-S

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