Wise Mind Accepts- 7 Skills from DBT
7 Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills for Relief
When we are over-stressed, we feel out of control and hopeless. It’s normal to have an urge to do anything to make the distress just stop in its track. If you have a hard time handling stress, it might seem almost impossible to tolerate extreme emotions and. You might engage in urges or behaviors that are self-destructive to simply feel better for the moment in time. Self destructive behaviors are using drugs, self harm, drinking alcohol, engaging in unsafe sex, binge eating or driving unsafely.
Now, people who engage in impulsive behaviors mentioned above are not stupid. Fact is, using any of those methods does reduce suffering, but not for long! They serve as a temporary numbing or release but then end up causing much more longer term suffering. So let’s help you put the breaks on the vicious cycle!
Dr. Marsha Linehan, renowned DBT researcher and psychologist has come up with a helpful mnemonic to help you remember what to do when facing distress. The idea behind the tools she provides it to help you experience relief “in the moment” while also ensure you do not make things worse.
Please note, these skills to self sooth and distract are coping skills and are meant for short term. If you have ongoing distress, you will need to engage in deeper therapeutic work so you don’t have to only rely on “coping” to get through the day. In the bigger picture, we want you to experience less emotional intensity and have less distress.
7 DBT Skill based on the well known term “Wise Mind A-C-C-E-P-T-S”.
Distress Tolerance: A-C-C-E-P-T-S
I know that the last thing you want to do when feeling distress is to engage in an activity. However, getting moving will help distract from the intensity of the emotion and offer short term relief. Some ideas are vacuuming, organizing your room, doing laundry, washing the dishes, cleaning out your car etc.
When we experience intense negative emotions, we get wrapped up in a tailspin of drama, forgetting that a world beyond this moment exists. One way to unglue from this intensity is to contribute to something outside of yourself. Doing this redirects your intense energy to something productive. In no way is this meant to invalidate the pain you are currently feeling, but rather we want you to gain perspective and then come back to managing your pain with a bit more centered-ness.
Though we are usually encouraged not to compare, there are instances where they can be ok. When your emotions feel intense and it feels unmanageable to get through, take a moment to reflect on the things you have that others may not have. It may be something small or something big. It can be having running water, living in a certain part of town, not living in a war zone or having a means of daily transport. Some people find that keeping a daily gratitude journal helps them refocus when they start spinning. Even when your situation seem horrible, it can always be a tiny bit worse. And it most definitely can be better. But for this moment, it is what it is. I know it is hard. And it will definitely pass.
Choosing to act in a completely opposite emotion can be a powerful tool. Opposite emotion examples can be choosing to play a loud, exciting song and dance to the lyrics when you’re feeling lethargic, or going on a walk or taking your pup around the corner when you’re feeling sluggish. the goal of opposite action isn’t simply to shift your current emotions but more importantly, to remind you that all emotional states are temporary! Any form of intense feelings pass; pain, sadness, overwhelm, and equally so for joy and happiness. We shift in and out of emotions
Pushing away is a visualization technique to push away whatever uncomfortable emotions you are experiencing. Imagine shifting the intensity. For example: If you are feeling powerless and little, push the image away by imagining yourself getting stronger, bigger and powerful. If you are feeling heat and anger towards someone, use visualization to imagine the person shrinking slowly, and eventually shrinking away. Again, these techniques are not to deny your current emotional experience, rather we want you to get some control over the feelings. We want to transform the intensity to get you to a better emotional state where you will then process them.
Cognitive thoughts can give you short term relief when you’re feeling flooded. Let your mind befriend you for this moment in time. Pull out a book and start reading, and shift your full attention to the thoughts that you’re focusing on. Choose a silly kids book, a novel or something that is not triggering at all, but rather, offers relief. Become away of how you are shifting out of the emotional state, one second at a time.
Sensations provide temporary distractions. This is actually the reason why some people engage in self harm (such as cutting) because it helps reduce intense feelings (for very short term). We want you to use the distracting power of physical sensations to help you, and not to dig a hole deeper in hurting yourself (self-destructive choices). Ideas? Hold Ice cubes in your hands for 30-60 seconds, chew on ice, put an ice pack on your forehead, take a hot or cold bath or shower, smell your favorite perfume, eat your favorite food (not a binge eating, but healthy indulgence), or slowly sip a favorite drink. Become mindful of how the pleasant physical sensations can provide short term relief, and even more so, how they can distract you from choosing to do something that would harm you.
Want to learn to use these techniques on a daily basis?
I encourage you to make small notes or a deck of cards that remind you of the tips. Why? Because when our emotions overtake, it’s really hard to remember coping skills, and we want you to have easy to access self soothing ideas and skills that serve as reminders. Preparing in advance goes a long way. You can take an old shoebox or grab an old notebook and jot down some notes or draw a few pictures that symbol some of these skills.
If you’ve been experiencing intense emotions and are needing more than coping skills, reach out to me so we can guide you to the right help. I treat clients in Five Towns, Nassau county, Garden City and all other locations across the Long Island area of New York. Call me at my Cedarhurst office so we can help you begin feeling better today!
Marra, T. (2004). Depressed & anxious: The dialectical behavior therapy workbook for overcoming depression and anxiety. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.