When it’s too much, do something else.

I used to babysit for my friend S’s six-month-old child. The baby was a generally pleasant little guy, but when tired or if startled, he could get into cycles of sadness. Like so many of us, he immediately focused on the negative and was inconsolable sometimes. What I realized, especially with a small one who couldn’t use words to work his way out of his problems, was that sometimes distractions are life-giving. If I could get a sad baby to engage with a new toy, to listen to me sing, or to touch the textured wood on the bench outside, I had a chance of making him happier. Focusing on something else was enough to bring solace.

Lately, I’ve been spending time with other people who, as adults, having this problem: and I’ll confess, it’s sometimes me too. Focusing on one negative thing leads to another, and then to another. In that spiral, my brain stubbornly tells itself, “you must solve these problems in order to feel better. You must be miserable till then.” The tough part, of course, is that suffering, and loss, and emotional damage aren’t things that are solved: they are managed. What I’m learning is that, sometimes, the right thing to when negativity has you trapped is to do something else.

When sad, bake bread.

When heartbroken, tend your garden.

When furious, do some dishes. They make a lot of noise, so that’s nice.

It’s not that the thing or the emotion is solved by the action. It’s that distracting yourself from the negativity introduces another spiral, an upward one. It gives you one rung of a positivity ladder that can take you up. Obviously, the problems are still there; they will erupt from time to time and demand your attention. But living with all your attention on that isn’t as good as doing something else, something else good or something else that needs to be done. It’s a life-giving kind of distraction.

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27 comments on “When it’s too much, do something else.

  1. amusingword says:

    What a good idea! I think positive people do this to carry on..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome thought process. It’s the simple things in life that bring the greatest joy…baking bread, tending the garden and a host of other small but big things along with remembering to say hi with a smile to someone along the way…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I think the smell of anything baking triggers feel good hormones. Probably unscientific, but it works in our home.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. chris says:

    You’ve hit upon such a subtle truth; sometimes we just need to distract ourselves and focus on something positive instead. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Duda says:

    This is so well said. When I was in a slump as a young girl, my mom noticed. It meant so much to me when she acknowledged her own struggles and her cure: count your blessings and stay busy whether you want to or not.

    Like

  6. Distraction is such a good method! Especially when the negative momentum is strong. I use it and time it to ensure that I don’t let stress take over my life at the university.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great suggestions! The smell of fresh baked bread just carries me away…

    Like

  8. mattmusk says:

    Very well said. Thanks for sharing this.

    Like

  9. Mel & Suan says:

    Yes, make a list of possible distractions that one can take focus away from the current negative and keep busy as to not dwell on the negativity!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a great attitude! It’s so easy to let challenges get us down. Thank you for the fresh perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I wholeheartedly agree. Being productive is a good distraction from what troubles us, and it makes me happier to see that I’ve accomplished something! Thank you for this post. 🙂

    Like

  12. NeWMind says:

    My boyfriend always does dishes when he’s mad and I clean up or garden. I’m glad that people are aware of how good of a distraction these activities are and how beneficial they become.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. suth2 says:

    Wonderful advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Yes! I think, too, that engaging in a process (even a small one) over which you have control, can be a great reliever of stress caused by situations over which you have little or no control.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This. So much this. “move a muscle, change a thought” was one of the things I learned in early sobriety. Thank you for reminding me not to get lost in the downward spiral of negativity in the middle of a rough week!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Absolutely! I use my crafting or cooking a a disengagement from the normal “wear and tear” of having a busy, and a bit stressful job. I find if I don’t take time with these things and instead try to push through my to-do list I end up in a funk that, like you said, can only be managed. Thank you for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Kina@TBD says:

    I tend to clean furiously when I’m angry.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Kate says:

    So true! Good post! Distraction, especially something that can be done without going into autopilot mode, is key! For me, it’s coloring, watching a funny movie, or sometimes cooking.

    Like

  19. nirupamaprv says:

    So true! Anything to break out of the negative slump! And love the point about dishes, such a terrific way to channelize negative emotions! Plus, the noise kind of jars me out of my mood! Superb post!

    Like

  20. That bread looks so amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Heidi Macomber says:

    Wonderful insights on this subject!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Uttley says:

    I will think of you as I’m furiously dishdogging on my next day off!

    Like

  23. Nice post. As a retired early childhood specialist, we called it “redirect” as in his/her attention. If you take something away, always give something back in return. Yes, we need to remember to do this for ourselves. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. This is good advice when faced with too much to do and not enough time to really get it all done. At those times, I kind of FREEZE. But, then, I just “pick something” and begin to do it. Doing this seems to get me focused and I do get more completed by just changing it up and doing one thing on my to-do-list.

    Thank you for your visit to my blog at Walking by Inner Vision!

    Liked by 1 person

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