Keeping Busy

The transition between illness and recovery can be a little uncomfortable.

There’s a particularly awkward stage when your head is still on auto-repeat – but you’re trying to ignore the programme.

Where you’re so consumed by the process that you don’t have the headspace – or the inclination – to do any of the things that you’re looking forward to doing a little further down the line.

Where the agenda is simple: get through the day.

It doesn’t last – although it can feel like a lifetime – but it helps when you can escape into other things for a little while.

Welcome to the wonderful world of ‘distractions’ – the things you do to keep yourself busy when you’re thinking about things that you shouldn’t be thinking about.

Don’t let the therapeutic overtones put you off: they do the job.

Don’t worry if it feels like avoidance: it is, but only for the short term. Only while you’re moving from one phase to another and need to change the record. Only when you suddenly find that you’ve gained an extra four hours simply by changing your behaviour –

The secret of successful distracting? Things that are mundane enough to manage when your mental energy has been hijacked – and engaging enough for when you want to escape.

Crosswords and Su Du Ku are excellent examples – your brain is forced to identify the word or solve the equation: it has to switch into another thought train. Plus, they’re highly addictive and will help prevent Alzheimer’s. Apparently.

TV / DVDs: I’m not a great fan normally; but, when you really need to switch off and can’t muster up any energy, TVs a lifesaver. Comedies worked for me – and you get the added benefit of the smiling hormones – or series DVDs where I got hooked into the plot and the characters and forgot about my own life for a while. If you’re suddenly trying to fill additional hours, a good film can be just the ticket; and, game shows or the like can get you involved.

Crafty things: Paint by numbers saved my head during one of the hardest parts of my recovery. I may have been an adult – but colouring within the lines kept me focussed. Making cards is good because you get something out at the end. Sewing will keep your hands busy. Drawing’s similar – provided that you don’t get frustrated by the fact that your people don’t look like people. Anything that results in a finished product is a plus because you’ve got an objective, there’s something else to focus on.

Exercise – in moderation, if you’re recovering from an eating disorder or tend towards the obsessive, can be a great distraction. When you’re feeling frustrated, there’s nothing like a long walk to wear it out; and, the fresh air will probably help – even if it feels like a bit of an effort.

Baths and beauticians can work wonders when you’re not feeling too hot about yourself. Painting your nails occupies your hands and putting aside a little me time can get you in the habit of looking after yourself and offer some comfort when it all feels a little bleak.

Scrabble and board games if you can get someone to play along – or if you need to play yourself.

Cooking, cleaning and general domesticity. This is not about chores or putting horrible things into the gap (which will just encourage you to go backwards); but, there’s something satisfying in the scent of polish and the sight of an uncluttered table – even if the clutter just lies behind the cupboard door. Ironing is pleasantly mindless with the added benefit of ticking off a ‘to do’ entry; and, a saucepan of homemade soup is productive medicine for the soul!

The list goes on.

When I gave up smoking, satsumas and long winter walks did the trick.

When I stopped bingeing, I painted my flat and took out a subscription to a DVD delivery.

When I started eating more, I re-organised all my CDs and alphabetised my book collection.

It’s really down to what works for you – because anything that gets you over the first hurdle is a success –

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