6 Ways to Distract Yourself from Anxiety


If you distract yourself from anxiety, are you avoiding it? Are you running and hiding? Avoiding, and running and hiding, unfortunately, intensify anxiety; however, distraction can mute anxiety just enough for you to experience some welcome relief. The aim of distraction is to shift your thoughts from the automatic negative thoughts that are part of anxiety, to slow down your thoughts and the tendency to overthink everything and to release physical tension so you feel less like a tightrope and more like a hammock. These six ideas can start you on a happy path to distract yourself from anxiety. 

The secret ingredient of distraction is purpose. Of course, you don't want your distracting activity to be heavy and too serious, but if you just sit, for example, and shred paper towels, you'll likely find your mind and body becoming anxious again. Distracting activities that use your strengths, fulfill your values, and sometimes even induce flow (a state of being in which you are completely immersed in what you're doing so that anxious thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations fall away unnoticed). 

6 Activities to Distract Yourself from Your Anxiety

  1. Get your heart pumping, lungs breathing deeply, muscles working, and positive hormones flowing. Walk. Jog. Run stairs. Jump rope. Swim. Move your body any way you are able and you enjoy. Think of it as sweating the anxiety out of you. Even light exercise can relieve anxiety.
  2. Make something. You can use creativity to reduce anxiety. Tap into your creativity without any expectations for the result. Just create for the sake of it. Maybe you'll build a birdhouse or flower box. Paint (finger paints are especially fun). Make a blanket, perhaps. Or many blankets. A lot of hospitals and nursing homes ask for donations of homemade blankets to comfort people mentally and physically. 
  3. Learn something new. Browse a bookstore and gather a few books on a topic that sounds interesting to you. You can do this at a library, too. You can explore on your own with no pressure to perform. If you enjoy classes and preparing work for a grade, that is a great distraction, too (as long as you really enjoy this and the added pressure of evaluation won't increase anxiety). 
  4. Care for something. If you don't have a pet and having one is feasible, there are many small animals that are low-maintenance and easy to care for. If that's not an option, you might consider volunteering at a humane society. Or tend to plants and flowers. 
  5. Wash your car or bike. Washing by hand is cleansing for your vehicle and your mind. The suds are symbolic of washing away thoughts. It's great exercise, too. 

And the 6th Activity Is:

This one's purpose is nothing more than silliness. Anxiety robs us of silliness, laughter, and fun. Tune into the video to see an example of an activity to distract yourself from your anxiety. It's a distraction because it's goofy. 

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, March 28). 6 Ways to Distract Yourself from Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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