Squirrel! How to Distract Yourself from Negative Triggers

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2015  Nancy Virden

n2ngr80My friend has a little dog named Layla, a Dachshund and Chihuahua mix. Layla considers herself a princess (or so my friend informs me), and wears dresses. I’ve threatened to put a pea under the mutt’s mattress to test her royal status, but Layla’s diva-like behavior may be proof enough. 

She will spin around on her hind legs like a circus dog to show me her newest outfit. I have to admit, it’s a cute show. When it is time for me to leave and I reach for my coat, the prancing princess mopes. Her mood shift is immediate. She is distracted from her joy by loss. Aren’t we all? 

The same can be true in reverse; we have the power to change a negative focus to the positive. Unpleasant memories may be associated with events, places, dates, and all kinds of things. It’s tough to shake old repetitive thoughts, so how about we not try? What may help more is attaching new, happier experiences to those events, places, and dates.

OK, what do I mean?

By Christmas weekend 2014, typical holiday depression was knocking on my door. Instead of inviting it in by focusing on loss, I threw a spontaneous New Year’s Day party. Not only did my mood lift that week of preparation, but now I have a new, fun-filled holiday memory. I’m excited about next year’s opportunity to do it again.

Valentine’s Day is coming. This can be a time of sadness for rejected lovers, widows and widowers, and romantics filled with regret. You can create a new memory on this day. 

One woman began making trips to New York City with friends after her husband, her travel companion, died. Perhaps Valentine’s Day could be the day you deliver cards and chocolates to a local nursing home. If a smell or sound is upsetting, try to create a new experience around it. photo-24884214-just-squirrelling-around-3

Layla is a PTSD service dog. When she is on the job she stays focused. Off the job, like the characters in the Pixar movie, UP, she can be distracted easily. “Squirrel!”

You can distract yourself too. Give it a try. Make a game of it. Grab the challenge. See what you can create to change difficult reminders into triggers of joy.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*dog cartoon by julos at rgbstock.com

*squirrel picture from qualitystockphotos.com


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