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For the longest time, I believed distractions were bad. I thought I had to face all my emotions head-on, no matter how overwhelming they were. But through self-exploration and by diving deeper into mental health, I made a major realization: healthy distractions can be incredibly helpful.

Whenever I’m dealing with anxiety, insecurity, or another not-so-pretty feeling, I slow down and pull out my personal cheat sheet! LITERALLY. It’s a diagram my therapist and I drew out together with quick, effective tips to help me stay in the present.

Here are some ideas for staying in the moment and managing intense emotions:

1️⃣ Focus on your breathing

Take slow, deep breaths to help anchor yourself in the present moment and activate your body’s relaxation response. Practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique where you inhale for four seconds, hold it for seven, and exhale for eight.

2️⃣ Activate your senses

Locate five things can you see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This senses ladder helps engage your sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste—bringing your attention back to the here and now.

3️⃣ Write a journal entry

Writing down your thoughts and feelings allow you to process and release emotions, gaining clarity along the way. Ensure your thoughts are balanced with healthy affirmations and gratitude.

4️⃣ Go outdoors and get active

Find tranquility amidst the chaos by getting some sun and fresh air. Exploring nature and engaging in movement are great ways to pump up your endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters allowing you to circle back to the present.

5️⃣ Chat with family and friends

Phone your support system and request space to talk through your current emotions, or to simply check in on them. Often times, you are reminded that everyone is also on their own self exploration journey.

Finding what works for you might take some trial and error, and that’s okay. Healthy distractions allow you to stay in the present without getting overwhelmed with the guilt of the past or fear of the future. Remember to be patient with yourself and practice self-compassion. You’re not alone.