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6 Skills For Handling Distress Tolerance (Pt. 1)


In today's world stress and overwhelm are a common feeling that many of us encounter.  One of the tools that we used when our daughter was early in her treatment was something called DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).  This was a game changer for our family and is really an invaluable tool for anyone navigating today's pressures.  There are six skills to learn and I'm going to briefly introduce you to each of them over the course of a series of posts.  The nice thing about learning different modalities to create a calm mind is that you can pick and choose what works for you, and it is a growing process so don't feel like it's an all or nothing thing!

Now, I know, even discussing therapeutic tricks can illicit eye rolls or an initial 'I don't need that.'  I'm here to tell you, we call all benefit, so give it a shot!

Let's start with the TIPP of the iceberg.  TIPP is an acronym and the simplest way to start.

T--Temperature:  whenever we are upset, encountering stress or anxiety, our body temperatures rise.  A first interruption is bringing that temperature down.  Splash cold water on your face, blow the cars AC cold, or grab an ice cube and just hold it in your hand for a few minutes.  The cooling will interrupt your current thought pattern, cool you down physically and in turn cool your mind down.

I--Intense Exercise:  Even if you're not a big exercise person, boost your activity level for just a moment.  Run to the end of the driveway, swim a couple of quick laps, do a few jumping jacks.  The increased flow of oxygen to your brain immediately decreases stress levels.

P--Paced Breathing:  I've mentioned the benefits of this before.  Focusing on your breath with a deliberate breathing exercise will immediately begin to reduce your stress levels (interrupting your fight or flight response) and begin to move you to a place where you can look at the emotion and handle it in a more productive way.  Try a deep breath in for a count of five, hold it for a count of five, blow out for a count of five, and hold for a count of five; then repeat.  

P--Paired Muscle Relaxation:  If you've ever participated in a savasana in yoga, you may be familiar with this.  Lay down, beginning at the top of your body tense individual muscles and then release.  Repeat this all the way down to your feet, and you will find yourself in a more relaxed state.  Once done very slowly begin to move each part of your body...like you are waking it up. Relaxed muscles require less oxygen, which slows your breathing and calms your mind.

Have you tried any of these techniques before?  Did it help?  Stay tuned next week for an introduction to the next step!

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