I’m struggling to maintain balance at the moment – and I’ve realised I’ve been neglecting my blog (too much) – I’ve got two weeks of DBT skills to catch up on!
So – let’s crack on with it…
It was a bit of a difficult start – I was very anxious, so I was grateful (and touched) to receive a text from my therapist on the morning of the group offering me a chance to talk things through & giving me some helpful grounding exercises to manage the anxiety effectively and skilfully. For the first half of the group, I was feeling very vulnerable and exposed – I retreated into myself somewhat, which helped me to feel safer & more secure – but I became disengaged very quickly.
In this group, we were introduced to distress tolerance skills. In short, these skills are aimed at learning tolerate painful events, urges and emotions when you cannot make things better right away. A big part of this skill is about learning to accept reality, as it is – and learning to ‘sit with it’. Something which I really struggle with – as I’m constantly looking for instantaneous relief! We spent the first half of the session learning distraction skills, which are best remembered with the acronym ‘Wise Mind ACCEPTS’.
I think I threw myself in at the deep end last week (unintentionally, at least) and with the help of my DBT skills (my ever-growing toolbox) and some crisis coaching from my 1:1, I was able to effectively use some distractions of ACCEPTS. I’m going to try to link this back to my own experience, and how I have been able to best utilise the skill.
Activities – cleaning my room, writing e-mails, jewellery making etcetera.
Contributing – give away old clothes to a charity shop/friend, volunteer, message somebody to ask how they are (for me this is about shifting the focus from my own internal distress, and think about what I can do for somebody else).
Comparisons – I like to think of this as ‘comparing how you are feeling now to a time with you felt different, and observe how far you have come’. (Some people have mixed views on this one – so you’ll need to make up your own mind).
(Opposite) Emotions – do something to promote the opposite emotion to the one you are feeling – watch TV, films, comedies, emotional music and so on.
Pushing away – imagine yourself pushing the situation away, and building a wall around yourself. I like to imagine a little box which can hold all of the painful emotions locked up, on a shelf. Direct your attention to other thoughts.
Thoughts – I think the simplest way to use this method is to count to 10; count animals, count anything. Other ideas may be reading books, writing poetry – anything to keep your thoughts away from the emotional pain.
Sensations – a strong sensation can help to jog your emotions and break the connection between yourself and your emotional pain – an example could be using a elastic band on your wrist (this was a favourite on mine as an in-patient in hospital); use ice cubes on your skin, cold water etcetera.
In the second half of the group, I felt far more regulated – and we looked at ‘Pros and Cons’ as a skill to use in times of crisis (or before the crisis occurs!), by making a list of the pros and cons of acting on your crisis urges, and another list of the pros and cons of resisting crisis urges – that is, tolerating the distress. The end goal of this process is to encourage you to decide between two courses of action. I personally love this skill – as I find it really useful to see the pros and cons as a clear, visual aid to help me weigh up the consequences of resisting/acting on an urge.
I’ve found pros and cons useful in any kind of distress/stressful decision…. Whether or not to become vegan, deciding whether or not to go back to Nursing School…