Crisis Survival Skills are all about how to get through difficult times in effective ways without doing anything to make the situation your stress or anxiety worse.
We can also frame crisis survival skills as skills for tolerating painful events and emotions, when you cannot make them better right away.
Distract is a crisis survival skill set comprised of seven strategies that are easily remembered by the acronym accepts.
The first distract skill is activities, activities has to do with getting through the difficult situation by putting your attention on a completely different endeavor. This could be watching a video or movie, or could be playing a board game, Video game, or engaging in a sport or exercise.
It could be cleaning your room with your full attention, something that takes your mind off the crisis or distressing situation with an active pursuit.
The second distract skills is contributing, which is doing something nice for someone else. This could be volunteering, it could be donating time or money to a favorite cause of yours.
It can also be doing something relatively simple, like telling a close friend or family member, something that you like about them, writing a note or card to someone calling or reaching out to people buying a small gift for somebody, just really doing something to take your mind and attention off how a crisis is affecting you. And instead contributing to other people in your life, which takes the focus off yourself.
The third skill is comparison, which has to do with comparing yourself to people who are coping the same or less well than you or comparing yourself to your own self at a time when you weren't coping as well.
For example, getting through something that's really difficult for you right now by saying this is really difficult, but at least I have food and shelter unlike other people in this world. Or this is stressful and the world seems like it's falling apart. But at least I'm in relatively good health and I will survive this. Sometimes people say that they don't like this skill, because they then feel guilty about comparing themselves to people that are less fortunate than them.
It's understandable that this might come up for people. However, it's also a pretty natural and effective thing sometimes to say to oneself that things aren't as bad as I think they are for me. And that's what the skill comparison helps with. If effective, you can also compare the current situation with harder situations you have faced in the past, saying this is really difficult for me, but I've handled other situations that were this hard successfully.
The fourth skill is distracting yourself with emotions, and specifically with different emotions than what you're currently feeling. So if you're feeling intense sadness or anger, you could use the emotion skill by watching a really scary movie, or watching a really funny video, it could be listening to music that activates you in a different way than your current emotions are telling you.
The trick here would be to find music that generates different emotion than what you're feeling, not music that prolongs your mood.
The fifth district skill is pushing away. pushing away is mentally putting what's difficult in a box on a shelf deep in a closet. It's saying to yourself, I'm not going to think about this at all for the next 15 minutes. Or I'm not going to think about this at all for the next two hours while I do this other thing. And it's just mentally pushing it away for the short term.
The T in ACCEPT stands for thoughts. And this has to do with consuming your brain in some way with thoughts that take your mind off your current difficult situation. It could be doing subtraction or addition in your head, counting down by seven from some large number.
It could be counting the tiles in the ceiling in the room that you're in, or outside counting the number of trees that you see. It could be any other kind of mental activity like a puzzle that's incompatible with all the stressful anxious thoughts that you're having.
Finally, the S stands for sensations, the sensation skills, doing something that elicits strong sensations that will get your mind off of what is currently distressing you. Holding ice in your hand is something that maybe in the first few seconds doesn't elicit intense sensation, but if you did it for longer, you will start to feel intense sensations. They're squeezing a stress ball really hard, taking a very hot or very cold shower, biting into a lemon. These are all powerful sensations.
And when you feel something at the level of sensation in an intense way, it's going to pull your attention away from things that are difficult.
So again, the seven distract skills our activities contribute comparison, emotions, pushing away thoughts and sensations. You don't want to spend your entire life distracting, but in the short term these skills are extremely helpful for getting through a distressing situation without doing anything to make it worse.