Distractions & Diversions

There’s a change in the air. The tropical, coconut lemony smell of summer has faded.  The air is thinner, clearer. Last week, the air was thick enough to wrap around us like a blanket – now it’s more like a filmy sheer curtain, with a window behind it letting in an uncomfortable draught. Most days are still warm enough for bare feet and sandals – at least after 10.am or so – and a thin cardigan or sweater over a t-shirt, but my shorts are back in the wardrobe. And by four p.m, there is a sharp edge to the air, like a freshly-sharpened knife.

Yep, it’s Autumn in my hemisphere. Halfway to winter really – our crop of feijoas and passionfruit are over, it’s dark by 6pm, our heatpump unit has been switched from air-conditioning to heating again, and the need to replace the dodgy, ten-year old electric blanket is getting urgent.

Like a smoke-alarm reacting to a fire in the house, my face detects the change in the air, and lets me know about it with as much vehemence as the smoke alarm. Autumn temperatures trigger the ever-sensitive trigeminal nerve and it reacts with a constant heavy ache along my upper and lower jaw and across my eye brow. It’s an early reminder to wear scarves to protect my face when I go outside, and to prepare for days when the southerly winds blows Antarctic chill right into our back yard.

It’s not that it gets particularly wintry here – we rarely get frosts where we live, and snow stays on the top 50 metres or so of the 500m high hills behind us. But my trigeminal nerve doesn’t care about physical manifestations of winter like snow and ice. It’s hypersensitive to any temperature fluctuation outside the range of 15 – 23/4 degrees centigrade, and hyper-hypersensitive to any temperature below 15C, and any stirring of air stronger than the gentle lick of a summer breeze.

With the exception of particularly sunshiney, wind-still days, late autumn and winter climate is crap for my face. I’ve written before about the kinds of self-help techniques people can learn for managing pain.

But one of the best ways I know of managing pain doesn’t involve any special tricks or techniques. It’s just about… your hobbies.

How can hobbies help?

davDistraction. Pain thrives when we think about it. Focussing our mind elsewhere deprives the pain of attention and consequently it hurts less. The science behind why this works is more complex than I’ve described here, but in a nutshell, we need to distract ourselves from our pain. What better way of distracting yourself than doing something you love?

I’m not suggesting that if you love going for walks but wind triggers worse pain that when you are in the midst of both a pain attack and an icy, howling gale you should go for a long walk.

But if you’re in the midst of a pain attack and curled up crying on your sofa or in your bed, even just count stripes in your wallpaper (or if you’re as bad at cleaning house as I am, count the spiders in the cobwebs on the ceiling!) to divert your mind from the pain.

Like anything worth learning, distraction techniques take time to develop and become effective. Test yourself – put on a timer for a minute, and read a book, draw a picture, whatever, just DO NOT think of your pain for the whole 60 seconds. Easy? Then increase the timer to 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10, 20 – keep going until you don’t even need the timer any more.

It’s worth putting the effort in. Who wouldn’t want less pain?

And you know the best thing? There are no downsides, no nasty side effects. No risks.

Just time focussed on doing things you love. With less pain.

Five of My Go-To Hobbies


I’ve been writing stories and poems pretty much since I could hold a pen. I thrive on crafting and creating something meaningful from those little kernels of ideas that slide into my mind like a curl of grey smoke. Creating characters with their own problems and concerns certainly takes my mind off mine!

Writing is versatile. I get as much pleasure writing my blog posts, which are essentially information and/or opinion pieces, as I do writing fiction.

There’s therepeutic writing too. Writing a list of your fears, for example, or a letter you’ll never mail to express something you know you could never really say to someone is a powerful way of dealing with negative emotions.

Or writing just to communicate with friends you don’t see very often anymore. I’ve friends in the UK I haven’t seen for years, but we keep in touch via daft e-mails and letters.


distractpinI’m quite possibly the worst ever painter when it comes to using oils, but watching oil-painting videos on you-tube and then having a go myself keeps me happy. I love trying different media, like charcoal, pen and ink, water-colours, mosaic.

And even if I don’t have a more creative project on the go, just the mindless act of slapping a coat of coloured paint on an old tyre to make raised beds for the garden is an effective distraction from pain.


Even if, like me, you don’t play an instrument, putting on a CD (oops – showing my age) and listening to your favourite music is perfect distraction. TV and radio shows do the same job.


I’ve been hanging out for the latest Joanne Harris book, The Strawberry Thief. Picked it up from the library two days ago and am halfway through already. I always have a pile of books to hand, and I’ve got a library-full on my Kindle. Like writing, reading lets you get immersed in lives other than your own for a time. And if reading is physically difficult, try audio-books.

Word/Number Puzzles 

We have a bit of a ritual around breakfast in our household. Our neighbour always passes on the daily newspaper to us when she’s finished it. We get our news off the internet, but we love doing the cryptic crossword and/or the kenken puzzles together over breakfast. I save the sudoku for me for later.

These are just some of the things I can do without leaving home, or even straying far from an armchair. I haven’t included physical activities here, but excercise, even a gentle stroll around your own garden, is just as effective. Probably more – happy hormones, and all that.

You’ll have your own hobbies you can use as a distraction.
What would be your top five?






39 thoughts on “Distractions & Diversions

  1. Great advice! I just had to put down my cat of 14 years and it’s been a tough week. But I’m also incredibly busy this week working on a once in a lifetime project. While I do wish I had the luxury of time to grieve, I’m also thankful for the distraction.

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  2. I like all of these suggestions! I find hobbies very therapeutic and I enjoy crocheting, drawing, crafts, and writing. I’m glad there are outlets for people with pain to utilize and distract themselves.

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  3. My husband and I had this discussion recently about pain. He commented on his foot not hurting recently. Well, shortly after he told me this, guess what happened? His foot started to hurt. I’m going to let him read this too. I love that hobbies can distract us from pain and take our mind off of it. I find when I have something to focus on, it is easier to forget almost everything else.

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  4. Tricia, good of you to stress that there are many positive distractions from pain, be it physical or emotional. All good for the soul. Music and writing are on my list. I would add driving as I stay focussed on the road rather than on issues. Listening to music on the radio would add a flow to what I am doing.

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  5. I agree with you that the best way to cope with pain is to distract one self. Sometimes, when I get restless legs or my feet hurt, my daughter will always tell me ‘mum pretend the pain is not there and go and do something you enjoy.’ And it helps. Not saying the pain goes away, but it certainly makes it bearable.

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  6. I enjoy reading, writing, playing cards or board games, watching Netflix or Amazon Prime (sometimes), and planning vacations. Hobbies can definitely take your mind off pain or anything else that’s bothering you.

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  7. music and reading are my main distraction hobbies when it is dark and I have to spend less time outside. your tips are most welcome!

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    1. These are some good tips for distracting oneself that can be used under a variety of different conditions. Many of them I have had success with.

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  8. Thanks for sharing these great tips. Distraction was one of my favourite strategies at the start of both of my labours, and it worked for a while. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. I had this ache in my shoulder blade which is weird because I dint even do anything crazy. So by listening to songs it really helped me to move my attention away from it. 🙂

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  10. For me music is the ultimate distraction from most things including pain. A good song can bring you back to exactly where you were the first time you heard it and make you forget all your problems. I can also get lost in doing any sort of Yardwork or craft or merely sitting on the beach listening to the sound of the water. I wish I had time to read more (I know that’s an excuse) but a good book does for me what music can do when it comes to distracting from pain.

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  11. I totally agree with you, I use music and I like to meditate a lot too. Sometimes we might see that it’s not helping but I prefer alone time. This might sound unusual, I sometimes go to the kid’s pack sit and watch those little innocent people play.

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  12. Lovely post, Trish. Distractions are so important when living with a health condition. My hobbies keep changing. Over the years I’ve taken up several hobbies – jewellery making, embroidery, cross-stitch, card making, painting and writing. I think it’s helpful to have several things you can turn to.

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    1. Yes, mine change too – nearly always revolve around some kind of arty/crafty thing though – and one of these days I will get to learning to play a musical instrument!


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