Recently I published the first part of this post on using Distraction to help manage pain and illness. Here’s Part 2, with my favourite 5 types of distraction that I use the most.
Music can take us in all directions and bring forward all emotions. It can be uplifting (usually my choice) or can help you tap into and let out sadness and even anger. Some of the songs I love and find uplifting are Jewel’s Absence of Fear, Pink – Bridge of Light, and Bon Jovi’s Welcome to Wherever You Are and Bells of Freedom. Find the songs that lift you up, especially if you are experiencing depression, and use them to distract you and replace the less uplifting thoughts that dominate your mind. Youtube is a great free option for music.
I love podcasts. They have been one of the greatest additions to my life as a result of the world wide web. They have particularly made a massive difference to me because of my severe headaches due to electrosensitivity. Listening to or watching long audio/video programs on a computer is not comfortable for me (ie. It causes a lot of pain), so usually I don’t choose to do so, especially when I can quickly download podcasts to my MP3 player or phone, and listen minus the EMR and headaches associated with it.
The times I find podcasts the most useful is when I need to rest my body but my mind doesn’t want to follow suit. Mediation enthusiasts refer to the “monkey mind”, when your mind jumps around like a naughty monkey. Without direction I would often have a monkey mind, and the things I would think about would not always serve me. I know with CFS/glandular fever fatigue I have often felt exhausted in body, but find it almost impossible to sleep as my mind is active. Focussing my attention on an uplifting podcast allows me to rest my body, while giving my mind some direction as well. I find it much easier to rest for hours doing this – and sometimes I even fall asleep!!
For more on podcasting, check out my blog on the joys of podcasts.
Comedy shows are my greatest ally when it comes to distraction (oh, if I forget the headache I get from watching them, that is!). When I went through a particularly difficult period of CFS symptoms over a decade ago (and pre electrosensitivity), I found anything more serious could hook into my doomsday thinking too easily, and so wasn’t my best tactic. Laughing, however, was distracting and also produced a lovely natural boost of endorphins. Double bonus!
But really, whatever you enjoy TV-wise is a great distraction from pain, depression and anxiety. Work out what is most useful for you as a distraction and watch it when you need to get out of your head. I add singing contests to my comedy shows, and also shows like The West Wing and Buffy.
TV on DVD is perfect these days because you can decided what you watch and when. My recommended viewing for great, intelligent, funny escapism is: Buffy, Angel, Glee, The West Wing, Cougar Town (don’t judge the name), Modern Family, Friends, Coupling (look it up – great English couples comedy. Not family friendly though!), Outnumbered (another great English show that IS family friendly), Anything by David E Kelley (Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope (not if depressed though), Picket Fences etc), How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory – and oh, so many more. Didn’t realise how much of a TV addict I am. Maybe the electrosensitivity came to teach me something …
I escape into a book any time I can. I used to favour true stories or autobiographies, but during a very challenging period of my illness I found true life books exacerbated my depression. That’s when I rediscovered fiction and I haven’t looked back. I generally like fiction based on real life occurrences, so books by authors such as Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly and Monica McInerney are great to escape into. Not-so-well-know authors I love in this vein are English authors Catherine Alliott (laugh-out-loud, but real relationship stuff) and Victoria Clayton (usually based in upper class 1970s England. Beautiful, insightful, witty, intelligent writing. Love her characters and storyline twists).
But my current favourite author would have to be Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series. Don’t let it put you off that it involves time travel, because it just gives it that extra zing to add to the great characters and storylines. I discovered her books in about 2006, so I could read most books in the series before I had to wait for the next instalment (which I’m eagerly awaiting now!). If you’re not in love with Jamie by the end I’ll be very surprised, but I love the historical aspects to the books as well.
And the funniest book I’ve read lately is the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy series. OMG! I was in stitches every paragraph with Douglas Adams’ hilarious observation of humanity and the human psyche. It not for everyone, but I loved it and can’t believe it took me almost 30 years to read them!
Anyway, books are another of my great distractions/escapes from illness and pain.
Mindfulness comes in many forms and has been shown in certain clinical and research settings to be an effective strategy for managing pain. The type of mindfulness I use most to manage pain and illness, is totally being present to what I am doing or what is in front of me. I tune into all my senses and become present to the physical, which usually takes me away from my thoughts. In it’s simplest form, I just close my eyes and focus on the black behind my eyes. Sounds boring, I know, but it’s amazing what peace I glean from this simple form of mindfulness.
With regard to pain, often it’s our judgements and opinions about the pain and our fears and anxieties around it, that make the pain more painful. Allowing pain to just be without thoughts or emotions being added to it can be an effective way to manage pain. I plan to research this a lot more and write a dedicated blog to mindfulness. For now try reading The Happiness Trap by Dr Russ Harris if you want more information on mindfulness and managing illness and pain.
So that’s it for now on using distraction to manage pain and illness. I’m not advocating we always try to avoid our emotions and discomfort around our health conditions because I think expressing our emotions in healthy ways is extremely important. But sometimes we just need to escape for a while in order to come back stronger to fight another day. In many ways, Distraction fills my bucket, and I hope you can find ways for it to fill yours (see my blog on Filling Your Bucket).