During the pandemic, I, like many other people, have found myself with more time on my hands than usual. In some way, that is a good thing—I can fill my time with things I enjoy doing and live on my own schedule for the most part. However, I also found myself with a lot more time to myself and my own thoughts than before. To fill that time, I found myself taking in a lot of media—podcasts, television, music… you name it. It got me thinking—is that healthy? Are distractions from our mental state healthy in the long run? From my research I learned that experts say that if used in a healthy and managed way, distractions can actually be good for you.
By “distraction” it is important to recognize the type of distraction. For example, drugs and alcohol can temporarily distract you but can be very bad in the long run. However, psychology experts do agree that some forms of distraction such as playing video games or going for a walk can be good for you. According to therapist Weston Clay of the organization myTherapyNYC, there is a fine line that separates avoidance and distraction (Clay Manage Emotional Stress With Distraction). When you are purposely trying to ignore your emotions or ignore a situation that you do not like being in, that is unhealthy. It suppresses the emotion, but it is still there and will continue to bother until you fully deal with it instead of avoiding it. Distraction, on the other hand, is a way to take a break from processing difficult emotions and thoughts that can take over your life. With distraction, you can take a break from your thoughts while doing a mindless activity (such as playing a game on your phone) and eventually come back to the real world where you are mindful of your thoughts. Distraction is a tool used by doctors and psychotherapists to help with things such as addiction and anxiety.
During the pandemic, I have found myself needing more distraction than usual, and sometimes that is okay. Sometimes we need distraction from our environment, our families, or our work. It can be hard to be stuck at home with your thoughts. Distraction can especially help when you do not have much control over a situation; for example, we all have to stay at home. However, it is important to check in with yourself and ask why you feel the need to distract yourself and if it is healthy. I can now see that my need to be constantly busy or engaged in some sort of media is not necessarily healthy. Therefore, I am trying to reduce the amount of time I spend online and instead let myself sit with my own thoughts from time to time. I encourage you to self-reflect too. If you feel the need to be distracted all the time, you might want to reflect on whether you are actually distracting yourself, or unconsciously avoiding your issues. Distraction is only helpful if it temporarily takes your mind off of a stressor, not makes you completely abandon your issues. At the end of the day, the only way to fix your issues is to work through them. Some techniques you can try are journaling, talking to a parent or friend about what is on your mind, or talking to a school counselor or therapist.
Clay, W. (2020, January 09). Manage Emotional Stress With Distraction. Retrieved January 28, 2021, from