This week is National Suicide Awareness Week, and this month is National Suicide Awareness Month. So many of us struggle with our mental health and are fighting battles that nobody else knows about. Mental health awareness is something that’s very important to me. While society has been working to destigmatize anxiety, ADHD, and moderate depression, we still have work to do to understand severe depression, bipolar disorder, and other less glamorous mental illnesses.
If you are struggling, here are some distraction techniques to help you get out of your head for a little while. I broke them down into categories based on the level of effort that is required to complete each one.
Talk to Someone
Talking to someone, whether it be a professional or a friend, can be a powerful distraction technique as well as a way to unburden yourself.
1. Call or text the Trevor Project– If you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community in the ages 13-24, the Trevor Project is a specialized crisis hotline that offers both chat and call services to help you when you are in crisis.
2. Call the National Suicide Hotline– You can call 988 or head over to the linked website to call the national suicide hotline in the US. Many other countries also have suicide hotlines that you can find through Google.
3. Call a Friend– If you just want to talk, calling a friend can be a great way to distract yourself. Call a friend to hear about their life, vent about yours, or just sit there on FaceTime together silently to have some company.
Zone Out In Bed
Sometimes we don’t have the energy to get out of bed. The following are techniques are perhaps more commonly known distraction methods, but they can be extraordinarily helpful for people who are looking for distraction techniques that take the least effort possible.
4. Read a Book- If you don’t have the energy to physically read, you can also listen to an audiobook. Libby is a free library service where you can download ebooks and audiobooks as long as you have a library card.
5. Watch a TV Show- I personally love TV shows because the action and resolution happens in quick succession, which can be calming.
6. Watch a Movie– If you’re someone that wants to just zone out for two hours, a movie can be the best way to do it.
7. Lock Yourself in a Dark Room and Stare at the Ceiling– I call these “dark naps” which doesn’t make complete sense but does to me. Turning off all of the lights and embracing the fact that I’m not trying to sleep, I’m just sitting, has helped reduce my insomnia when I’m actually trying to sleep
8. Binge Listen to a Podcast– I love podcasts. There’s so many out there, with so much to learn and parasocial relationships to be formed.
9. Listen to Music– For an added activity, play the same song in all of your headphones and speakers and rank their quality
10. Release Tension in Your Body– Start with your toes and release all of the tension, and then your feet, and then your calves, working your way up your entire body. Take at least a minute at each stage to feel your muscles relax.
11. Let Yourself Cry– Giving yourself permission to cry can be powerful. Crying is okay, and sometimes you need to actively remove any internalized shame that you feel around it.
12. Watch One Youtubers Videos– There are so many Youtubers that have been creating content since 2013. Sort “oldest to newest” and watch every single video to follow their journey
Active Thinking (While in Bed)
Sometimes you don’t want to leave your room (/couch/bed) but you do want to distract your brain a little more actively than in the above section. If so, these tips are for you.
13. Find a Personal Essayist and Read All of Their Content– Finding someone who talks openly about their life (or at least the part of their life that they make public) can be a good way to waste away hours and feel a little less alone
14. In-Depth Research a Random Topic– Maybe you’re into history, or biology, or any other random topic. Pick something hyper-specific and learn as much about it as you can.
15. Plan a Detailed Vacation Itinerary– What’s your dream vacation? Pick a place and plan your itinerary, from hotel, to restaurants, to the touristy sites you’ll visit
16. Research Therapists– Psychology Today is a great resource for finding therapists. Even if you’re not ready to reach out and start seeing a therapist, it can be a good use of time to read the bios of the therapists available in your area
17. Journal Your Feelings– Journaling doesn’t work for everyone, but I love writing, so it definitely works for me
18. Online Shop Then Empty Your Cart– Pick a website and fill your cart with everything you could possibly want. Then, slowly empty out your card in the order of least-wanted, so that you’re only left with the one item you want the most by the end.
19. Play the Google Dinosaur Game– Disconnect your laptop from WiFi and see how far you can get in the no internet Google Chrome dinosaur game. A fun free video game!
20. Apply to be on a Reality TV Show– Netflix and CBS always have open submissions periods for their shows. Pick your favorite and fill out an application
21. Virtually Create a New Life– Randomly generate a town in your country and mentally create a new life for yourself there. Find a house on Zillow, research job opportunities, and figure out your new mode of transportation
Get Out of The House
A change of scenery can also mean a change of brain space. Getting out of the house is underrated, in my personal opinion.
22. Buy a Meal for a Homeless Person– Bonus points if you also give them cash or ask them what they want to eat first!
23. Go for a Walk– Walking or any other physical activity is a great way to force your mind to put more energy into your body than into your intrusive thoughts
24. People Watch– Go to a public space and make up lives for all of the people you see there
Creating something that will last can be a great way to feel accomplished. Even if you’re not particularly artistic, there is still a sense of accomplishment in making something yourself.
25. Paint a Picture– Or color, or sketch, or whatever other form you feel inspired by
26. Start a Blog– Design the website (on WordPress, Weebly, or something else) and then write a few blog posts. Hit publish and share it with the world!
27. Start a Personal Instagram– Create a private account that only you follow, and only post photos that make you feel incredibly good
28. Open Verse TikTok Challenge– A lot of TikTok rappers create open verse challenges. Google one and make your own verse!
29. Recreate a TV Show- Pick your favorite episode of your favorite TV show and recreate it into a one-person show. You play all of the characters. Edit the clips together with a free video editing software
Low Stakes Activities
These activities are a little bit pointless, but sometimes all we want is something pointless. We just need to move around and feel like we’re doing something, even if we undo all of it by the end.
30. Paint Your Nails then Chip it Off– Painting my nails is calming, but so is chipping off the paint. Plan to chip it off before you start so that you don’t feel bad about the small mistakes or ruining it
31. Drink as Much Water as You Can– Fill up a giant bottle of water. Sit there and drink as much water as you possibly can until you have to get up to pee
32. Write On Your Arm With Marker– Once your arm is filled with the ink, wash it off (gently) with warm water and soap.
33. Move Your Bed Across the Room– Beds are heavy, so this is some physical labor to get your heart pumping. It’ll also create a sort of fake change of scenery
34. Pair Up Your Socks– Match all of your socks to their pair. If they’re already matched, unmatch them all and then pair them up again
35. Pack a Suitcase– Pack an entire suitcase (or duffel, or backpack) as if you’re going on a vacation. Then unpack it all and put the clothes away
The following distraction techniques are all things that will have a real impact, either in your life or the life of other people. Making yourself useful can lead to a sense of accomplishment once you’re done.
36. Cut and Dye Your Hair– The sign of a life crisis? Yes. A really fun time? Also yes.
37. Do Your Laundry– This is an impossible task for me, but maybe you can do it
38. Cook an Elaborate Meal– And then eat it!
39. Donate to Charities– Pick a cause and do research on the top three charities for that cause. Donate $10 (or however much you can afford) to each one. If you can’t afford it, post about them on social media instead
40. Easy Workout Routine– Do one push-up and one squat. tomorrow, do two. the next day, do three. promise yourself that you’ll keep going until you hit 100 each
41. Volunteer– Pick a volunteer organization and sign up for a regular shift
42. Learn Grounding Techniques– Grounding is when you complete mind exercises to calm your brain down and reset, especially if you’re highly anxious or on the verge of a panic attack. Learn the 5-4-3-2-1 technique if you don’t already know it. If you do, research other ones
43. Yoga With Adrienne 30-Day Class– Commit to doing one of Yoga with Adrienne’s 30 day classes. Even if you don’t have energy to complete it one day, put it on while you lay in bed. Finish the whole class
44. Wash Your Water Bottle– Yes, that one that you’ve been carrying around for weeks without washing. Do it!
45. Wash Your Coffee Pot- Not washing it may add flavor, but every once in a while it can be washed
What techniques work for you? Share them in the comments