Kristen Bellows, BSW

Kristen currently lives in Toronto, Ontario with her partner and 2 cats. She has a Bachelor of Social Work from Ryerson University and engages in anti-oppressive work.

distraction plan 150x150 Why Create a Distraction Plan? Coping With Overwhelming EmotionsA distraction plan is a technique from Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). I address this post to not only your children but also you to, the parent. We can all benefit from a distraction plan! The plan is what it sounds like, a plan to distract you or your child from overwhelming emotions which could lead to negative coping (ie: cutting or substance use). The goal behind creating a distraction plan is as a first line of defense against and in dealing with overwhelming emotions.


The most important thing to remember when creating a distraction plan is that it needs to include techniques you or your child are willing to do.

I have a distraction plan which consists of 10 techniques. Do not worry if you or your child cannot come up with 10 distraction techniques but I would say have no less 4 or 5 distraction techniques. The more techniques on the distraction plan the more likely you or your child will be successful in one of them although having to many could also increase the feeling of being overwhelmed so I would recommend not going above 10.

Here’s my distraction plan as an example.

Kristen’s Distraction Plan

  1. Breathing
  2. Draw on myself with a red pen (to simulate self harming)
  3. Throw a sock ball at the wall
  4. Go for a walk
  5. Listen to calming music
  6. Focus on what is happening outside
  7. Do cat chores (ie: clean the litter box, groom them)
  8. Take a hot bath
  9. Organize my desk or books
  10. Play with my cats

Write the distraction plan on an index card or a larger piece of paper and keep it with you or with your child for those moments of need.

You or your child may find that a few techniques from the distraction plan are used more than others which would signify that they are the most successful! Personally, I  use breathing, calm music, throwing a sock ball and hot baths the most.

Creating a distraction plan is the first step in being able to cope with negative and overwhelming emotions by allowing you to focus your attention on something else. Having many different types of techniques can ensure that something will help in each unique situation. Of course, if you or your child are unable to engage in the distraction plan in a moment of need that is ok. If  the techniques chosen are not working out then make a new one!

Learning how to distract yourself does take practice and love, support and understanding on the journey is most crucial.


The Distraction Plan model I used came from:  The Dialectical Behavioural Therapy Skills Workbook (review and purchase)


Websites to help create a distraction plan:

Recover Your Life- The Big Distraction List

10 Ideas to Distract Depression

Well Connected- Distraction Techniques


(Photo credit: mariisolaa

Tiny URL for this post:

What do you think?

Leave a Reply