When to Hide Under the Covers: the Skillfulness of Skillful Distraction
Years ago I heard Dr. O. Carl Simonton advise his cancer patients: “Every day do what you need to do to deal with the cancer, keep your doctor’s appointments, take your medications. Do what’s required. Then for the rest of the day, live your life.”
All life is lived in a rhythm of activity and rest, striving and ease. And when we’re dealing with an illness or a pandemic that is life-threatening, it’s essential to find a rhythm of being responsible, taking care to take care, finding refuge when need to re-group in quiet and stillness, and then renewing ourselves by tapping into the deeper meanings and joys of life again.
Distracting ourselves for a time from fear and over-worry is not meant to avoid or deny what’s happening, what needs to be faced and dealt with. But when done consciously and choicefully, skillful distraction can be an effective way to find our energy and strength again to cope with real difficulties for another round or two.
Very deliberately seek out moments that are positive or at least different from the pressures and worries of the day. These might be:
Physical: taking a long nap, sipping a warm cup of coffee, enjoying a warm bath or a brisk walk, feeling the sun on your face or a cool breeze on your skin, planting vegetables, cooking a nourishing meal, dancing to your favorite crazy upbeat music, doing yoga stretches
Emotional: watching a great comedy show or inspiring adventure story on TV, listening to or playing invigorating music, sending wishes of loving kindness to friends and neighbors
Relational: playing with a puppy, talking with your best friend, sending cards or YouTube links to friends
Mental: playing a challenging game, reading an inspiring book, writing poetry or journaling
Spiritual: meditating or centering prayer, walking in nature, making your year-end charitable contributions now
Let your mind and heart have these respites without any guilt: this is essential self-care. Savor the refuge. Even brief experiences can create an immediate shift out of anxiety and overwhelm into more ease and optimism.