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How can I use distraction to manage difficult thoughts or feelings?


Author: Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division


Distraction is a very valid tool to help you cope when everything feels overwhelming or when you feel lonely or isolated.

If you don't have a lot of energy or focus right now, try low-effort distractions like watching TV, browsing Youtube, listening to a podcast or audiobook, playing a game on your phone, reading an easy book or magazine, or working on a simple art project.

If you have more energy and focus, give yourself a to-do list every day: you can clean and take care of projects around your home, work on hobbies, connect with family or friends, read a new book and catch up on your favourite TV shows. You can find interesting opportunities to take online courses from universities all over the world through MOOCs and other online learning platforms, you can learn a new language online or through apps, and you can learn new hobbies and activities. As more people have to practice social distancing or self-isolation, people are finding creative ways to bring the world into their homes: you can tour museums and art galleries, Skype with a scientist, watch animals at zoos and nature preserves, and more.

When normal schedules are disrupted, it's easy to fall into unhelpful habits. Look for ways to keep yourself on track with healthier habits. You could set yourself goals every day or turn activities into a fun competition with friends or family—whoever takes the most language classes wins!

Give back and pitch in

Many communities are using social media platforms like Facebook to organize support and help for neighbours. If you are healthy and it's safe to do so, you can sign up to walk dogs, pick up groceries and household supplies, and help others who can't go out at the moment. This can be a great way to make new connections in your area, and helping others is good for your own mental health. Just be sure to follow good hygiene practices and physical distancing—your own health is important.


About the author

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The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental illness through public education, community-based research, advocacy, and direct services. Visit


Q&A is for readers who want to take charge of their well-being, support a friend or loved one, find good help, or just learn more about mental health and substance use. Here, the information and resource experts at HeretoHelp will answer the questions that we're asked most often. We'll offer tips and information, and we'll connect you with help in BC, Canada. If you have a question you'd like to ask, email us at [email protected], tweet @heretohelpbc, or log in to HeretoHelp and post a comment on this page.


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