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Playing the 'Distressed' Card. Monday September 30, 2013

Here's the third in the series of excellent blogs by Lex covering the adjectives on the 20 Moodscope cards. Please don't forget we'd love you to add any ideas, tips, insights or advice you may have that you'd like to share with other Moodscope members that might be of help. Please add them to the comments at the end of this post. Many thanks. Caroline.

Today, it's the turn of the 'Distressed' card, which Moodscope defines as, 'feeling extremely anxious.' This is a state of psychological tension that requires some immediate release. Given that we can mercifully only seem to focus on one emotional state at a time, I suggest the following productive distraction technique.

The Time Management Guru, David Allen, talks about 'open loops' – the distress and anxiety that comes from knowing there are things left undone. This is good news because we can instantly make a difference to our overall distress levels. You may be facing a challenge that you can do nothing about, however, there are other small challenges that you can do something about today, and thereby lessen the burden of anxiety.

Pick some easy wins – some simple tasks that you could complete and tick off your 'to-do' list. Physical to-dos work best. Getting these simple tasks done will create two immediate benefits. Firstly, you'll distract your conscious attention, giving yourself a break. Secondly, you'll lessen the overall load of pressure you are carrying.

I remember hearing about a cargo lorry that could not get to its destination because of a low bridge. Frustratingly for the driver, the lorry was only centimetres too tall but the barrier of the bridge was immovable. Suddenly, someone helping had the idea of letting the pressure out of the tyres – just enough to get the lorry under the bridge. This slight relief of pressure led to success that day.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Anonymous Mon, Sep 30th 2013 @ 9:04am

Love the example about the lorry!
I've made a list of my past achievements & when things get too much, I look t it & inevitably I think 'I did that! - & the situation was as tough, if not more so than now! If I could do that then, I can do it again!'
It works every time!

Anonymous Mon, Sep 30th 2013 @ 9:31am

I know when I have a list of things to do, be they only minor things. I can feel as if I will never get to the end of the list, and can feel defeated before I even start. That is when I have to take a deep breath and kick the defeatist thoughts out of my head and get going.
Once I do start , I realise that certain jobs on the list only took a few minutes to do and the more I achieve the better I feel. So I reckon you should start with the small jobs and with them completed you will then have the will and stamina to complete the rest.
If you don't get to the end of your list, don't fret, there is always another day!

Anonymous Mon, Sep 30th 2013 @ 1:50pm

I had just figured this out on my own lately, and it has lessened my distress so I can still keep moving on.
Many thanks for sharing, it is a good piece of advice that certainly could benefit others, and serves as a reminder for people like me.

Anonymous Mon, Sep 30th 2013 @ 4:24pm

I had felt pretty jittery all morning, but a couple of things turned my day around. First, to get away from selling on the phone, I rang a friend with some good news. Second, I complimented a work colleague on her hair. It felt good. Not flirtatious ( I think! ), and it cheered her up. Peace & Love.

The Entertrainer Mon, Sep 30th 2013 @ 5:07pm

Thanks for your comments folks. It's great to know that, as Leonardo da Vinci thought, everything connects to everything else. Quick wins anywhere in our life and any time during our day are intextricably connected to our overall state of well-being. If I can't see a way to get under my bridges, a least I know how to let the tyres down a bit!

Anonymous Mon, Sep 30th 2013 @ 7:51pm

Is distress about anxiety then? I don't know if I really connect what I think of as distress with 'feeling extremely anxious'. Funnily enough I was struggling to describe what I think of as distress to a friend the other day and the best I could come up with was being uncomfortable in my own skin/ body/ life to such an unbearable degree it feels like torment/ torture..even terror almost, but without the fear if that makes any sense...but anxiety? I just don't make that connection. And my friend suffers from anxiety but didn't really connect with what I was trying to describe either. I would really like to know how to get out of/ avoid this sort of distress state. I feel it takes me beyond being able to do even simple tasks, but hey I will try anything.

amy Mon, Sep 30th 2013 @ 8:21pm

"open loops" are definitely a problem for me! Thanks for your suggestions - VERY helpful!

Fionna O'Leary Tue, Oct 1st 2013 @ 6:42am

I agree that, for me 'distressed' does not necessarily mean 'extremely anxious' although some anxiety may be present. I have wondered why there is no 'sad' or 'grief-stricken' card as sometimes distress for me is more towards that spectrum.

As to avoiding it...many Eastern philosophies, and increasingly this is becoming part of Western mental health is often our efforts to avoid distress or other difficult feelings that cause them to hang around. The idea is (sometimes easier said than done) is to let it in but create no obstacles to letting it go. Sometimes, in trying to prevent them it is possible to cause those hard feelings become tangled up and stuck because we are so busy resisting them we actually create internal obstacles to letting them go.

The knack seems to be to learn, albeit gradually, to create a safe holding environment where we can let distressing feelings in...and to allow them to pass. That environment is often referred to as self-compassion but, for me, a consoling environment seems like a better description as compassion can have pitying or suffering along-with connotations that may not be helpful.

So it can be important to do constructive things no matter how small to reduce the practical issues to be solved and I agree that creating lists and starting with the small things can help us feel more in control...safer. (My niece, at Univeristy, kept a notice up when she was revising "How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time.")

But it is also important sometimes, in managing distress, just to let it be ...leaning towards it in a consoling way.

Anonymous Fri, Oct 4th 2013 @ 8:12am

Thanks for this entries.

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