When experiencing high levels of stress and/or anxiety, emotions are typically running high, which can make it difficult to think rationally. In fact, anxiety/stress can even be known to "trick" you into thinking you are in fact thinking rationally. It is only after you take a step back or "come out the other side" so to speak, that you may realize that the thoughts you were previously having, were not based on facts/logic, but rather driven by emotions, anxiety and/or fear.
This is a classic example of something Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (a popular form of psychotherapy) calls our "Emotional Mind".
A rational mind is when a person uses logic, hard facts, reason, etc., to guide their actions. This can be helpful in certain situations, such as baking for example, where we want to follow measurements or specific recipes to get the exact outcome we desire. However, we cannot expect ourselves to be in a rational state of mind 24/7, as emotions, feelings, and fears are all present for a reason - they serve a purpose.
So how can we engage our rational mind mind and our emotional mind at the same time? The answer: the wise mind - where facts and experience are combined with emotions and feelings. Where we use intuition, listen to our gut/heart/mind to decide what's best. It is important that we acknowledge and honour our feelings, in a way that allows us to accomplish our goals.
So how can you get out of an emotional mind and into a wise mind? There are many tricks taught in DBT to help with this. One is the STOP technique. Another, is using distractions - the topic of this article.
Distractions come in many forms. DBT splits them up into several categories: Activities, Contributing, Comparisons, Emotions, Pushing Away, Thoughts and Sensations. To help remember the various categories, they also created the following saying: "A wise mind ACCEPTS".
The examples listed below are adapted from DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan. Copyright 2015
*Choosing an activity that elicitis a different emotion than what you are currently feeling (ie, if you're feeling fearful, don't watch a scary movie. Watch a comedy perhaps). Activities could include:
Trying to stay grounded while pushing away stressful thoughts. When we have a lot going on in our minds, it's important that we compartmentalize our thoughts. Sometimes that means putting some thoughts aside for now, so you can address them at another time. Pushing away could look like:
*Find a way to fully immerse yourself in your senses. Examples could include: