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There’s a fine line between distractions that are harmful and those that are helpful. In a world where our minds and schedules are filled with things to do and expectations to meet, it may seem like getting distracted can only slow us down and stop us in our tracks. There are certainly times when distractions are harmful such as when we turn to them to escape responsibility or avoid negative experiences, but other times they are a healthy way to relax and decompress from the demands of our everyday life. Sometimes we don’t notice how tense and overwhelmed we are until we already are, but we can learn to be mindful of the kind of distractions we engage in and how they contribute to our sense of health and well-being. This is equally if not more true for our children.
Distractions are healthy when they….
Brain breaks are short mental breaks that both kids and adults can schedule into their routine by taking 2-5 min. To move around after prolonged periods of work or learning. Brain breaks give our brains the chance to rest after putting much focus and attention into a task. It gives us time to process and integrate new information. Brain breaks are a fantastic way to lift up the energy in the room after sitting down for too long and can also be viewed as a brain boost. These breaks get our minds ready for another round of undivided attention during the next period of learning.
In the classroom, brain breaks can consist of simple and fun physical activities like star jumps and animal yoga poses. Brain breaks have been shown to help kids self-regulate as they become more aware of when they are getting bored or inattentive. By freeing our minds for a short while, we return to a blank slate where we can play with inspiration and creativity once again. These mini distractions are healthy because they help increase our attention, alertness, creativity and interest in what we are doing.
Stress, anxiety and frustration are all valid emotions when we’re under pressure at school or at work. When these emotions are heightened, it can take a toll on our ability to stay focused and productive, leaving us feeling drained and unmotivated. Taking a mindful break to reduce our mental load in these types of scenarios will definitely do more good than harm to our performance as doing so can help us move through difficult feelings as they come.
Set aside a short period of time to engage in healthy distractions like taking a walk, deep breathing exercises, playing with your pets or listening to relaxing music. Keep an eye on when kids are feeling the stress. Make a list of pleasant activities ready to reach for when you feel the kids need time away from their task at hand to destress. Avoid unhealthy distractions like binge watching or mindless scrolling as these can result in increased fatigue, exhaustion and lack of motivation.
While it’s true that many kids today are fixated on their phones watching Youtube videos, creating on Tiktok or gaming, it would help to look into the reasons why kids are spending so much time online. What we as grown-ups may view as distracting could be fulfilling a greater need in our children in light of the pandemic…social connection. By being mindful of WHY our kids are online all the time, we can begin to support our kids by helping them manage their time in these activities instead of scolding them for constantly being on their devices, or confiscating their phones as a way to eliminate what we think are negative distractions. It may be that our kids are turning to these activities to help them connect with their feelings by connecting with other people.
With our current world events, it’s easy to be desensitized by news in the media or think that there is not much we can do but by interacting with others we are able to combat feelings of being small and insignificant. We give ourselves meaning and purpose by participating in activities with others, or by expressing ourselves on online platforms that can showcase our talents and creativity. Before thinking that our kids are merely avoiding responsibilities at home and at school, we can think about how these activities are actually benefiting their individuality and self-confidence. The key here is to help our kids achieve balance in their daily life as we reframe our views of distractions.
Healthy distractions loosen us up so we can come back to a relaxed and receptive state. They help us regain our attention and focus when strong emotions overwhelm us. When mindfully done in short periods, it has the potential to increase positive feelings of calm, confidence, connection and enjoyment.
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