Stress and Distractionby RICHARD CLERICI on 03/12/15
In my therapeutic work I often meet people who seem to live entirely in some other world. It sounds weird to say that but that's how it seems. They're world at first seems normal. They come to therapy for a reason and they have goals. The goals often involve getting out of some kind of pain, depression or anxiety.
They do many of the things that we all do like using the internet, watching tv, playing video games, texting etc. but they seem to do these things more than the average person. They even glance at their phone or pda while in a therapy session. Some of these people find it necessary to respond to a text while they're speaking to me. They report playing a lot of video games and watching a lot of television.
It almost seems as though they're someplace else other than in the room with me. I often notice what seems to me to be a very short attention span and a tendency to dismiss the immediate environment. It's as though their attention or awareness is only partially present.
I'm beginning to believe that this constant connection to media and messaging is serving to mask high levels of stress. We all utilize distraction as a coping mechanism. It's a legitimate way to keep from obsessing on daily concerns, when we do it minimally. The problem arises when a person is intentionally or unintentionally distracting from and avoiding feelings and body sensations. Those fleeting moments when we could become aware of our stress levels, become filled with or blocked by a constant flow of communication and media information. Stresses build in the body/mind but we are completely unaware of the rising stress level. It's like putting a piece of masking tape over the gas gauge in your car. At some point you'll run out of gas but be unaware of that approaching inevitability and the opportunity for simply filling the tank.
I often find myself helping a client gradually withdraw from media as though it were a drug and drug addiction. It often only takes a reduction in the amount of media exposure to help a person come back to this world, their feelings and inner resources. To manage stress we have to be able to be aware of it.
To live a healthy life we all need to find a balance with food, exercise, sleep and media.
If you see yourself in this story, gradually reduce your use of media and notice how your own awareness helps you to manage stress and relax.