Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I have been trying to open up and talk about my struggles with anxiety and mental health. I’ve dealt with severe anxiety and panic attacks since I was 19 and since then I have worked to find ways to get through the days when anxiety pops up (always unannounced, which is so rude). If you want to hear more of my thoughts on my personal struggle with anxiety and why I think it’s so important to talk about mental health, make sure to watch this video I uploaded on my Youtube channel:
What I’ve learned about anxiety is that you have to take it one day, even one minute, at a time. There is no easy fix to those obsessive thoughts in your head. You just have to learn to live past them. One of the best and most useful ways that I’ve found to do this is to stay in the present moment. I am able to push through anxiety by finding healthy distractions and refusing to let myself indulge in the anxious, obsessive thoughts circling through my head.
Friends or family who are aware of and understand your anxiety can be a great resource to get your mind off of whatever is stressing you out. However, other people aren’t always available and sometimes you have to find ways to distract yourself.
Obviously, if you are struggling with severe anxiety (or even if you’re not, that’s cool, too), I definitely recommend seeing a therapist. I’ve been there, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Talking to someone who you know won’t judge you is one of the best ways to understand why you’re having these thoughts and is the best resource to finding ways to move past your anxiety (or any other mental health related issue, for that matter).
But if you are just looking for ways to distract yourself from general anxiety in your day-to-day life, I have found these 5 forms of entertainment to be the best resources for me. Obviously, they may not work for you. But I have personally found that entertainment is the best way to distract myself from my thoughts, stay in the present moment, and not let myself indulge in anxiety.
1. Watch TV or a movie
I love TV shows, movies, and binge watching things on Netflix. So it’s a no-brainer that these are the things I turn to when I’m struggling with anxiety. In particular, I love turning on shows that are comforting and not over-dramatic or intense. I tried watching Scandal once while having anxiety… not a good move. I tend to prefer cooking and home renovation shows (I’m an 80-year-old, I swear) or sometimes even a good reality show that will make me laugh (I’m looking at you, Bachelor). TV is a good way to get your mind focused on something else and concentrate on someone else’s life other than your own. Youtube videos are also a great option if there’s nothing on TV. May I suggest you check out my Youtube channel? 🙂
2. Listen to podcasts
If you read my Entertainment Round-Up post from last month, you’ll know that I’ve been binging on podcasts lately. Well, I shouldn’t even say lately, because I’ve been obsessed over podcasts for a long time. Personally, I like podcasts that are more advice / inspiration-based or funny and entertaining. I often gravitate toward Youtuber-driven ones as well, just because I’m a Youtube junkie. But obviously, choose whatever podcast floats your boat (are we back in grade school? Why did I just write that? Maybe I’m 13, not 80.). There are so many podcast options, you’re bound to find ones you like. Some of my favorites are Dear Hank and John, Gilmore Guys, Not Too Deep with Grace Helbig, Lizard People (for fans of conspiracy theories), and Here to Make Friends (for fans of The Bachelor franchise). What I love about podcasts is that I can listen to them while doing anything. It’s a great way to distract my mind while cooking or doing the dishes.
3. Draw, paint, or doodle
Another important component to distracting yourself is to occupy your hands as well as your mind. Most often while I’m watching TV or listening to a podcast, you will also find me doodling on a notebook or my iPad. This is because, when I’m feeling really anxious, it is often not enough to just distract my mind. Sometimes I need to distract my other senses as well. I find this kind of multi-tasking really helpful for pushing past anxiety because I am able to distract myself in multiple ways, thus providing fewer ways for my anxiety to peek through. Plus, drawing or painting is extremely soothing and comforting in and of itself. But if that’s not your thing, I also recommend playing a game on your phone. Personally, I prefer repetitive games like Solitaire, Sudoku, or this Flow Free game. But if you’re still totally addicted to Candy Crush, you can go for that, too.
4. Read a book
If you’re a book nerd like me, this seems like an obvious distraction from anxiety. But to be fair, I find this option only works if I am extremely invested in a story. I can very rarely just pick up a new book, start reading, and be distracted by it. However, it can be helpful if I am halfway through the story and I am interested enough to fall into it. This tends to be my last option, though, just because it doesn’t allow me to multitask or use my hands in any way. It could potentially help to turn on some light music or white noise to block out any excess distractions. Or maybe use one of those fidget spinners I know you have lying around to occupy your hands.
Sometimes, when you’re thoughts are extremely demanding, the only way to get through them is to get them out of your head completely. In desperate times when nothing else seems to work, I just grab a pen and paper and start writing. Sometimes I journal, sometimes I write a story, and other times I just start writing and see what comes out. In general, writing helps me to put my thoughts into perspective and to look at them, in concrete form, with clear eyes. This can be extremely helpful with anxiety because sometimes seeing the words on the page can help you see them for what they really are: just thoughts. Crumple up the piece of paper and throw it in the trash for some metaphorical cleansing. Those negative thoughts have no power over you if you don’t let them.
These are my five favorite ways to “entertain” myself during anxiety attacks. If you’re struggling with anxious thoughts, try some of these distractions and see if they help. From one anxious person to another, I really hope they help you gain some sense of control over your mind and thoughts.
If you have any anxiety or mental health tips, make sure to leave them in the comments! Thanks for reading!