Our minds have problems focusing on more than one thing at a time. Just try the old schoolyard trick of patting your head and rubbing your belly – you may soon find you’ve started rubbing your head and patting your belly and your hair’s become a bird’s nest!
But when you’re in pain you can use distraction to your advantage. By focusing your attention on something other than your pain – something enjoyable, entertaining or distracting – it can help you manage your pain for short periods of time. Distraction can be particularly useful if you have to do something that you know will make your pain worse – e.g. sit for an extended period of time, climb stairs or undergo a medical test or procedure. It can also be helpful for the period of time after you’ve taken pain relieving medication and you’re waiting for it to take effect, or when you’re trying to fall asleep. Distraction can also help you if you’re feeling anxious or stressed.
As with most pain management techniques, distraction takes time and practise. And sometimes you may find that your pain is at a level where distraction isn’t enough. But it’s a great skill to have up your sleeve.
There are a great many ways you can distract yourself from pain.
Simple mind games:
Activities that distract:
I’ve become a huge fan of podcasts. When I need distraction, I grab my iPod, plug in my headphones and listen to the latest episodes of ‘Serial’, ‘This American Life’ or ‘Stuff You Should Know’. It takes me away from my pain for a while and I learn something new.
I go to the movies. There’s always something on that will take my mind off my pain for a few hours.