Distract:  A Distress Tolerance Skill

Distraction helps us feel better by diverting our attention away from whatever is distressing us. It works best if you choose something that really grabs your attention and keeps you absorbed in that activity. Different things work for different people. It is worth trying and practising some of the examples listed below, and more that you think of for yourself. It will take patience and trial and error to find the ones that suit you best.


Home and garden

·    Mow the lawn or do some gardening

·    Clean the car

·     De-clutter a room or part of a room

·     Purge your wardrobe (give to charity)

·     Cook or bake


·         Do a crossword or other puzzle

·         Surf the internet or watch TV

·      Watch the clouds whilst lying outside

·       Read a novel or new newspaper or magazine

·     Visit the park or beach

Getting out

·    Go for a walk or jog

·     Go for a ride on your bicycle

·     Go to the library

·     Look at the local paper to see what is on – go somewhere new.

Being creative

·     Take up a new hobby

·        Learn another language

·        Start an evening class

·       Learn to play a musical instrument

·     Create a weblog or site


·     Have a bath or shower

·     Massage your hands or feet

·     Meditate, relax, yoga, tai chi, reiki

·     Paint your nails

·     Write or read a letter to yourself

Express yourself physically

·      Dance energetically to loud music

·      Run, walk, cycle, swim, go to the gym

·     Vacuum enthusiastically

·    Paint

·    Bang a drum

Positive Self-Talk

·       I can get through this, I’ve managed before and I can now, it will pass

·       I don’t need to do this, it’ll only make it worse afterwards

·       I can cope, I’ve done it before and I can do it again

Making contact with others

·       Telephone someone you haven’t spoken
to for a while

·       Write a letter or email someone you
have not written to for a while

·      Talk to a friend or family member

·       Join an online support group or discussion forum


·       Create, in your mind’s eye, your own special or            ‘safe place’

·       Colour breathing: choose a calming colour such as blue or green, and visualise yourself breathing in that colour, and letting go any tension with each out-breath (perhaps using another colour such as red or black)

What are your own ways of distraction?

‘Distract’ skill helps us to feel better by diverting our attention away from distress.