Distraction therapy is a very simple technique and can be used at any time, though it is especially effective during panic attacks.
You can prepare a particular memory or even an imagined scene in advance to use as a distraction. The idea is to focus your attention upon this memory to break the cycle and prevent your anxiety from escalating.
- Choose one or more memories or even a fantasy and imagine it as vividly as you can. The idea is to make it easy to remember when you need it and powerful enough to hold your attention. Experience as much as you can, the sights, sounds, feeling, even the smells if possible. Build them up. Make them stronger than they actually were.
- Concentrate on this memory.
- When this memory is strongest in your mind, you now want to link this memory to some kind of physical trigger, for example squeezing a particular finger or pulling on an earlobe. This is known as anchoring and is based upon the idea that you can create powerful associations between thoughts and physical movements. Whole areas of mental development are built around this idea. This idea was developed at one time by the CIA to help ‘torture proof’ their field operatives.
- Repeat this ‘anchoring’ technique to make the physical link stronger. You don’t necessarily need the physical trigger you can just conjure up the memory when you need it, but sometimes it helps to have that extra psychological push.
- Whenever the need arises, for example during a panic attack, then trigger the memory. It works on the principle that your mind can only really think actively about one thing at a time. Even if you are good at multi-tasking you still have to rapidly run through in sequence one thing at a time.