These are strategies that can help you block out the voices, stopping them for a time or making them quieter or further away.
You might want to try some of these strategies if:
- you need a break from the voices or visions
- you want to be able to focus on something else (e.g. at school/college, when you’re with friends or if you want to watch TV)
Blocking strategies are really useful in the short term, but they often take quite a bit of energy and often don’t work over long periods of time. It can be really important to remember to learn other ways of coping (e.g. calming, expressing and empowering) to help you mix things up.
What Can I Do?
If you want to try out some new ideas, check out this list of ideas that other young people who hear voices have found useful.
Remember: it can take time to find strategies that work for you. Try to notice tiny differences in how you feel, or how the voices sound. Feeling a little more at ease is a great start … it gives you something to build on. If you can, you might find it useful to keep a diary so you notice what is beginning to help and what doesn’t feel useful at all.
Sometimes, when things don’t work, it’s easy to get down-hearted and worry that nothing will ever help. Try not to get down-hearted if things don’t work first time. That’s natural. You might want to persevere, to see if the strategy begins to work better as you get more confident using it. If not, it’s OK to put that strategy on the ‘things that don’t work for me’ list and move on to something else.
Distraction is one of the most natural ways of dealing with distressing experiences. It involves working out a range of things that you can focus on, even when things feel really stressful. When we are able to focus on something else it can quieten down the voices, or at least make them feel less powerful for a time. Some people find that the voices stop altogether when they are really absorbed in something.
Distraction strategies may include:
- Listening to music
- Playing guitar, keyboards, drums, singing …
- Playing computer / phone games
- Going for a walk
- Playing a sport / exercise
- Cleaning / cooking / gardening
- Drawing / painting / making something / being creative
- Watching music TV, short programmes or something you’re interested in
- Reading a magazine, a book of poetry or graphic novel/comic
- Puzzles / thinking games
- Creating a You Tube playlist of videos
- Being around other people / talking
Finding The Sweet Spot
With distraction strategies it’s important to find the ‘sweet spot‘. If you’re doing something that is too familiar and easy, you won’t need to focus on it and it won’t be distracting enough. If you’re doing something that is too difficult, you might find yourself getting frustrated and stressed out – and it might make the voices more difficult to deal with.
We encourage young people to find the right amount of distraction for them. If they find it helpful to spend time on their Xbox, playstation or other console – we encourage them to try and work out how the games they play affect their feelings and the voices they hear. Sometimes they notice that specific games or levels work better than others as a distraction strategy at different times. If your usual game/levels make the voices louder or more troubling, it can help to switch things up. Some people find more repetitive games on their phone / tablet can be more helpful than, for example, playing a game that they take much more seriously.
Above all, remember to experiment and learn what works for you.
- Reading out loud or singing (some people find that this blocks the voices – so it can be a good thing to try out to see if it works for you)
- Wearing ear plugs (in one or both ears)
- Using your imagination. For example, some people imagine a barrier around them. Others think of a volume control and imagine themselves turning the voices down. Other people imagine a safe where they place the voices.
- Naming everything you can see in the room, really quickly (this can be quite stressful, but some people find that it doesn’t leave any space for the voices)
- Confusing the voices (some people find that, if they hear voices that comment on what they’re doing, they can confuse them by reading something that they don’t understand)
- Some people find that the voices stop, for a while, if they change what they are doing or move into a different space
- Some people are prescribed medication to help reduce the voices. Some people find that medication makes the voices / visions happen less often, others find that it makes the voices/visions less intense. Other people find that it doesn’t help with the voices/visions at all – but helps them feel less worried by them (or gives them the chance to get some sleep). Others find that the medication doesn’t help at all, or makes things feel even more difficult. It’s so individual.