filler task dragonfly

What’s a “filler task?”  Something you do, or think about, when you feel yourself spiraling down.

Remember the Daily Shoring tip to Stop Worrying?  And the suggestion that you have something else to focus on when you start to worry?  Well, today is the day to refine that concept.  Let’s break it down:

Filler Task Alternative Thoughts:

Psychologists call these “alternative thoughts” because you train yourself to use these thoughts to replace unproductive anxious and distressing thoughts.

Hopefully, you’ve been working on this since reading the Stop Worrying tip.  Your alternative thought(s) are ideally things you can focus on any time, such as when driving, as these “down times” are often the times thoughts start going in the wrong direction.  Here are some ideas:

  • Plan a trip or outing
  • Think about birthday or holiday plans
  • Imagine and start planning a creative project–artwork, home improvement, cooking, baking, woodworking, etc.
  • Call a friend (okay, not while driving, but reaching out is especially good if you’re going through a difficult time)
  • Read, or if that’s not convenient, listen to an audible book (if you have a smart phone, you can download books easily via–a great distraction, especially when driving!)
  • Listen to music (if this distracts, but not anything that will stir up sad emotions or memories)

Filler Task Activities:  Activities are for the times you’re feeling antsy or depressed and need to do something but you can’t think of what or are totally unmotivated.

Come up with some ideas now, because when you’re not in a great state of mind you will never think, “Oh, that sounds like a great idea!”  You need to have things to do on your list that you know will, at a minimum, distract you, and maybe even make you feel better.  Even if you don’t feel like doing anything, try to do something anyway.  What to do?  Have I mentioned that it’s good for your mind to move your body?  :)  Here are some suggestions.

If during these activities you find that your mind still wanders back to distressing thoughts, then combine the filler task activity with an alternative thought.

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Exercise, of any kind–again, even a few minutes of jumping jacks or stretching will really help
  3. Play with a pet
  4. Take yourself out for coffee or a meal, even if it’s just to be around other people
  5. Go to a bookstore, or a music store if you can find one!
  6. Yard work, wash the car, clean a few windows, household chores, clean out a drawer (okay, admittedly not fun, but gets you moving and you’ll feel good about accomplishing something).  You may find it helpful to use the pomodoro technique to get started.

Less desirable because you’re not moving, but better than dwelling on distressing thoughts:

  1. Play a video game or something on your smartphone (Remember SuperBetter from Build Mental Resilience?)

What distraction serves as your filler task?  Please share!