Not all cravings are built equally. In my experience there is a curve: at the bottom of the scale is a small rumble, felt after seeing a half-finished glass of wine or something. Then further up is the gnawing sensation that a drink would make a certain situation vanish. At the top in the crisis zone are the moments where the facts are indecipherable from the roar of the craving to feel different from how you feel in that moment – whether it is to feel accepted in a social setting or alleviated of a particular feeling.
Right at the top of this curve, we might not have the capabilities to dive deeper into the feeling that is consuming us, and in these moments we can use distraction. We don’t have to immediately identify and dissect every feeling we experience. Part of feeling the feeling is sometimes being overwhelmed by it – but not letting it pull us under.
Distraction to me isn’t something mindless. Scrolling on instragram and doom spiralling to the news isn’t a distraction, that’s something I mindlessly do to procrastinate, or make myself feel worse. Oftentimes it is leaning me into the negative feeling further, perhaps to justify an unhealthy response or to punish myself by taking on more information and pain than the human brain was built to handle.
Distraction for me is putting myself in a safe place, where I can weather the storm. It is a playlist to dance to, a film that envelops me, it is a list of phone numbers on my fridge I can call, it is the cake ingredients in my cupboards. In this crisis mode all that is required for me is survival of the next five minutes, then another on top of that, and as the waves crash and rock my boat, I’m in my cabin singing to myself, knowing it won’t last forever and until then I am safe. Not a single feeling the brain can experience lasts forever. There is no craving on earth that will last forever.
What are healthy ways you can distract yourself? Do you have activities or sensations that can take yourself away from feelings that are unbearable, until you’re in the right headspace to deal with them?
Two tiny things:
- Find a mantra you like, maybe write it down or put it on a note in your phone. Mine is “Be strong saith my heart, I am a solider and have seen worse sights than this.”
- Go for a walk without your phone. Look up, try and observe things you’ve never really noticed before.