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Coping With Distressing Emotions


How do you cope with your emotions?

Do you cope in healthy and constructive ways or do you restrict, binge, purge self harm, isolate, etc?

Oftentimes, we cope with our emotions in very similar ways as our parents did. As children, we are sponges for our parents’ overt and covert messages. If your parents covertly gave you the message that you need a drink when you are stressed-by drinking when they were stressed- you are likely to do the same as an adult.

The good news is that, as adults, we can choose to cope with our emotions in different ways than are parents modeled to us as children.

One way to cope with distressing emotions that feel unmanageable is to use distraction.

So what are some healthy distraction activities?

This can be different for everyone. You may have to try different activities to find what works best for you. I love to knit and it is a great distraction activity for me; however, it may not be helpful for another person.

Some other ideas could be crafts, coloring, reading, drawing, watching TV, playing with your pets, going for a walk, calling a friend, doing a puzzle, and listening to music.

I have found that some of the best distraction activities are often the things you liked to do as a child. Did you like to read? Color? Swing? Dance? Swim? Sing? Paint?

What made you feel happy as a child? Most of the time we stop doing these activities as an adult because we think we are “too old” for them. That is just not true! We all have an inner child that still loves to play! So take your inner child on a play date- it can definitely be a great way to distract from any unhealthy urges.

What are some of your favorite ways to distract?

–Ashley Azin, MA, MS, LMFT, Program Therapist, Eating Disorder Center of San Diego

*This article is intended for those suffering from eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, in the greater San Diego area, seeking affordable treatment and services

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