Saturday, September 4, 2010

D.I.S.T.R.A.C.T. - A Cool Coping Tool

So, some of you may know (especially if you get our e-mail newsletters) that I've been seeing a therapist through the Give An Hour organization (provides free counseling for members of the military, veterans, AND their loved ones / caregivers).

One of the many things she's been helping me work on is how to handle those times when my hubby totally looses it. Those of you who live in PTSD / TBI world know exactly what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, it's just part of this life. The problem is, those tirades have started affecting how I see myself and the world around me. I found myself getting more and more defeated. An especially bad incident could leave me numb and not able to function for days (not a great idea in a household where I'm the one taking care of pretty much everything!).

So, my therapist, Cindy shared a tool called D.I.S.T.R.A.C.T. with me. It's worked so well, that I asked her to write a short article about it for me to share with all of you. I'll also be posting this on the main website.

Don't get me wrong, it' doesn't "fix" everything... there are still times when it just doesn't work... but about 60% - 70% of the time it helps (and let's face it, any progress is exciting!). The basic idea is to get yourself "out" of the moment. It may not stop your Veteran's tirade, but it does kind of let you distance yourself!

Here it is:

When you find yourself overwhelmed with things going on around you and you begin to self doubt (I can’t do this, I’m not going to make it, I’m going crazy…), there is something you can do to get through the moment. I learned this technique from Marsha Linehan. I’ve used it with clients for several years and see dramatic results. I’ll teach it to you.

We will work from an acronym: DISTRACT

D = immediately find something else to do that will momentarily take you mind off what is happening around you. This has to be preplanned and pre-organized. You will not be able to ‘think’ to do this in THE moment. It could be something as silly as jump up and down, begin to sing, go to another room, bend down and touch your toes and then reach for the sky. The point is – DISTRACT yourself at this moment.

I = Find a happy place in your memory. Literally have a predetermined place that brings smiles to your face like the memory of seeing your baby for the first time, a beach, a cat watching a bird. Just have this memory pre-programmed for ready access. This purpose in getting you to smile is that smiling breaks the chaos of the moment, lifting the heaviness you were feeling in THE moment.

S = If the first two did not work, run get an ice cube and rub it on your arm, suck on a peppermint, spray an aromatic air freshener. Do something to stimulate the senses. Stimulating the senses will break the spell of THE moment.

T= Think about something, again pre-planned, that brings you to a different place in time. An example would be a vacation, a child’s first day of school, a baking session for the Christmas holidays. Go there for just five minutes and recall everything. Stay there till you feel better and if it takes more than five minutes that is ok.

R = Remember a time when you made it through a difficult moment. Remember how hard that time was. Remember that it passed. Remember that you did make it through. Remember and pat yourself, remind yourself that you can get through this as well. You are resilient. You just need to remind yourself of this from time to time.

A = Accept that the emotional pain is real, normal for the moment and anyone going through the same thing would probably be experiencing the same emotions, frustrations, and fears that you experience. Accept the normalcy of the THE moment in your life.

C = Create a new meaning for THE moment. An example would be: I am angry and overwhelmed because I had plans today and this is interfering with my plans instead of, he always does this to me when I have plans. Another example: He senses that I’m leaving to go to the store and is afraid to be alone instead of; he always does this when I try to leave. Just add a new meaning, believable, but a new meaning to THE moment.

T = Take an opposite action. If you feel like hitting him, pinch your ear lobe. If you feel like crying, sing. When you do the opposite, you break the spell of THE moment.

Cindy's Contact Info:

Cindy Warren, Marriage & Family Therapy, Associate
Warren Counseling Services