Distraction Techniques

These strategies can be helpful when focusing your attention away from the painful feelings or situation. Instead of avoiding, you are distracting, or choosing to focus your attention for now with the intention of going back to the problem later, when emotions are regulated, you feel safer, and have the skills to address the problem. 

Techniques for Coping with Different Emotions

Mindfulness

Self-Soothe Using the Five Senses

Gratitude

Movement

Journalling

Externally-Focused

Internally-Focused

  • Techniques for Coping with Different Emotions

    • Angry

      • Safely take scissors and cut up a piece of heavy cardboard, an old shirt, or a plastic bottle
      • Vent to a friend or family member
      • Squeeze ice
      • Eat a lemon or hot sauce for a sharp sensation
      • Flatten aluminum cans for recycling
      • Hit a punching bag or pillow
      • Use a pillow to hit the wall or your bed
      • Listen to music and scream/sing along (genres like heavy metal, hard rock, rap)
      • Rip up a newspaper, printer paper, cue cards, etc.
      • Throw a ball or ice at a wall
      • Dance – have a 1-minute dance party with fist pumping, jumping, or any other dance moves
      • Tidy or clean up
      • Bang pots and pans
      • Hold ice in your hand
      • Take a hot or cold shower
      • Squeeze a rubber ball
      • Drum using a spatula/spoon and a pot
      • Stomp around or kick dirt
      • Shove a pen into a notebook until it tears through the pages
      • Scream into a jar
    • Bored

      • Do a task that requires focus and concentration, like a puzzle
      • Choose an object in the room and list all the uses of it
      • Learn how to do a hobby or task (yo-yo, shuffling cards, needlepoint, crochet)
      • Write reviews for things you’ve ordered online 
      • Follow a DIY tutorial (5-minute crafts for example)
    • Depressed

      • Dance slowly to soft, soothing music
      • Take a hot bath with bubbles or a bath bomb
      • Curl up under a blanket with a hot drink
      • Give or make yourself a present
      • Hug a loved one or stuffed animal
      • Play with a pet
      • Make a list of things that make you happy
      • Do something nice for someone else
      • Listen to motivating music 
      • Put body lotion on your legs and pay attention to covering your whole leg with lotion
      • Call a friend or loved one
      • Watch a funny TV show or movie, or funny YouTube videos
      • Visit a friend
    • Lonely

      • Write down your feelings in a diary
      • Cry it out!
      • Read 
      • Listen to a podcast or e-book to avoid silence
    • Over-Stimulated

      • Put noise cancelling headphones in
      • Use a weighted blanket or put on a heavy sweater
      • Create a soft, calming area of your room with pillows and blankets
      • Hug a stuffed animal
    • Stressed

      • Play a game 
      • Think about what is contributing to the stress and try to solve it – for example, cleaning up clothes from the floor of your room 
      • Do a calming activity like colouring, drawing/doodling, knitting
    • Tired

      • Lie down and rest, even if you do not fall into sleep
      • Watch a video of something you find boring to help drift you into sleep (ex. video explaining photosynthesis, learning to code, watching someone draw or paint, etc.)
    • Under-Stimulated

      • Use a massage ball or back scratcher
      • Touch different types of fabrics
      • Drum on a surface
      • Play a game on your phone
      • Untangle cords/necklaces/headphones 
      • Puzzle books – sudoku, word search, crosswords
      • Wash makeup brushes, paint brushes, or work tools
      • Clean your electronics
  • Mindfulness

    • Mindfulness Practices

      • Listening to the sound of the birds chirping or wind in the trees
      • Smelling the fresh scent of the air or spring flowers
      • Noticing the musty smell of an old blanket
      • Looking at the clouds in the sky
      • Looking at the cracks in the sidewalk
      • Noticing the feel of a soft stuffed animal
      • Noticing the feel of a bumpy edge or your keys 
      • Concentrating on other thoughts like counting shapes or colours, watching TV 
      • Count down slowly from 10 to 0
      • Breathe slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth
      • Do yoga or meditate
      • Do some breathing exercises to aid relaxation
  • Self-Soothe Using the Five Senses

    • Hearing

      • Listening to soothing music
      • Pay attention to the sound of nature
      • Sing or hum
      • Learn to play an instrument
      • Call someone to hear their soothing voice
    • Smell

      • Use your favourite perfume or cologne
      • Put lotion on
      • Spray fragrance in the air
      • Light a scented candle
      • Put lemon oil on your furniture
      • Place potpourri in a bowl
      • Boil cinnamon; bake cookies, cake, or bread
      • Smell some flowers
      • Go for a walk and notice the smells of nature
      • Put your hands in soil and notice the smell of earth
    • Taste

      • Have your favourite meal
      • Have a soothing drink (tea, hot chocolate)
      • Really taste the food you eat, eating mindfully 
    • Touch

      • Take a bubble bath
      • Put clean sheets on your bed
      • Pet your pet
      • Have a massage
      • Soak your feet
      • Put lotion on your body
      • Put a cold/warm compress on your forehead
      • Sink into a really comfortable chair
      • Put on a silky shirt
      • Put on cozy clothes
      • Brush your hair
      • Hug someone
      • Hug yourself
      • Place a heavy blanket or pillow on your lap
      • Cuddle into a big sweater or blanket to feel contained 
      • Butterfly hug yourself and tap your sides
    • Vision

      • Make your space the way you like it
      • Light a candle and watch the flame
      • Set the table for yourself
      • Go see some art
      • Look at nature/the stars
      • Look at a picture book 
      • Watch a dance
  • Gratitude

    • Gratitude Practices

      • Doing something for others
      • Volunteering 
      • List as many good things about yourself as you can
      • Talk to someone who cares about you
      • Remember when you did a good deed
      • Get a coffee and pay it forward (paying for the person behind you)
      • Read a children’s book to your inner child
      • List your recent accomplishments
      • Encouragement – provide encouragement by talking to yourself the way you would to someone you care about, or the way you wish someone would talk to you. Repeat statements like:
      • I can do this
      • I can stand it
      • It won’t last forever 
      • I’m doing the best I can 
      • I am strong and capable
  • Movement

    • Mind-Body Movement

      • yoga
      • tai chi
      • stretching
      • learning self-defence 
  • Journalling

    • Journal Prompts

      Journaling can help you express yourself, manage anxiety and stress, clarify thoughts and feelings, and practice  positive self-talk. 


      Some examples of journal prompts to try: 

      • Write a letter to your past self, or your future recovered self
      • Write a letter to your eating disorder
      • “Who am I without my eating disorder?”
      • “What would my life look like without my eating disorder?”
      • The negative impacts of your eating disorder
      • Identify disordered eating thoughts and how they differ from the truth
      • Reasons why and how you can achieve recovery
      • Write about a relapse and what you can do differently next time
      • What a day without your eating disorder would like
      • Ways you can be kinder to yourself and practice more self-care
      • Write about what’s happening in the present moment.
  • Externally-Focused

    • Active

      • Needle work
      • Holding ice in your hand
      • Taking a hot or cold shower
      • Squeezing a rubber/stress ball 
      • Listening to loud music 
      • Gardening/planting flowers or trees
    • Passive

      • Colouring
      • Stacking dominoes or cards
  • Internally-Focused

    • Active

      • Try a body scan exercise
      • Try progressive muscle relaxation
    • Passive

      • Mind block – create an imaginary wall between yourself and the situation and put it into an imaginary box. 
      • 5-4-3-2-1 exercise
      • Counting backwards from 100 by 7
      • Saying the alphabet backwards
      • Naming the provinces and territories of Canada and their capital cities