This is a series that I am writing on Dialectical Behavior Therapy – DBT has changed my life. The workbook states that this “strengthens a person’s ability to handle distress without losing control or acting destructively” by building “skills in four key areas – distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.” DBT is a huge part of the foundation of my centeredness as well as my ability to “live in the moment” and find gratitude – needed ingredients (I believe) in spirituality and humility.
I would like to share some of my insights as I work through the workbook for my second time. I encourage anybody and everybody to take a look at DBT – as parts of this can help anyone that is looking to find more peace, joy, love, and self-love in their life.
Today, I was reading and working through the section on distracting yourself from negative emotions or self-destructive behaviors.
I’ve never engaged is self mutilation, but I belonged to a few dual-diagnosis outpatient treatment groups that had individuals that did. There were many ways that I have acted out in some very dangerous behaviors. Street racing, dangerously perching on roof-tops, drug addiction, alcoholism, the list goes on…
This chapter looks at some distractions that people can use when faced with “overwhelming emotions”. I use these techniques when I become very angry, depressed, can’t sleep, or I feel overwhelmed.
The first list are things that we enjoy. It sounds so simple, but I keep a written list so that when I am in the middle of an emotional situation or feeling halted by a depression rolling in, I can pull that list out and pick something that interests me in the moment. I checked off some of the activities that the book lists, but what I have found is that I just need to try things and see what I really enjoy. If it is an activity that builds esteem, is healthy, and makes me feel accomplished – it goes on the list. If I don’t find a love for something, then I don’t add it.
The second section of this chapter discusses ways to distract oneself by paying attention to someone else. Not in a co-dependant way, but by volunteering, helping others, even riding with a friend while they are knocking off a list of their errands. Sometimes, when I feel a depression rolling in, I will just think about my family and friends that support me. The love we have for each other. This always puts a smile on my face.
The next section says to “distract your thoughts”. There are a lot of ways I do this. Nature is the best way to get out of my head and find some gratitude. The book lists a few that include “keep a copy of your favorite prayer or favorite saying with you”, “imagine yourself as a hero or heroine”, or to think about good things from the past.
Next, is to use chores or tasks to keep distracted (not my favorite, but many get a lot of pleasure from dishes or doing laundry).
Also, counting is a good way to momentarily distract oneself. I use this a lot… I’ll stop for a moment and take some deep breaths and count them. It doesn’t take but a few to recenter on the fly and deal with a situation. Sometimes I need to repeat. Then repeat again. lol
Lastly, my favorite is to find things that soothe. Take a pause in life and focus on the senses. Touch, taste, sounds around you, feeling things or the wind on your face, or look at something beautiful. There are times where I will stop my mind to look at the shape of an object and trail my fingers along it to feel the texture. Perhaps a unique rock. Feel the heat coming off of it from the sun. Or after it rains, I’ll take a deep breath of the clean air and smell the wild sage brush that we have all over the desert. Maybe look at a single fluffy cloud just hanging out over the horizon – thank Mother Nature for the gifts of beauty that we have been given.
At the end of the chapter, there is an area to create your own action plan. My first time through the workbook, I was pretty obstinate about doing this. I felt like a little kid being made to “pickle papers” or a silly exercise. What I have realized, is that by writing these things down – they are reinforced in my mind. They go from ideas to tangible tools. Also, when my mood shifts, from my disorder, I sometimes loose the capability of fully rational thought. I need it in black and white and in my hands to know that it is true. Think about it, how many times have you become so angry that your mind twists things around a bit. Later you look back and say, “why did I get so angry about that?” Because sometimes, we take a build up of emotions from all over the place and channel them into something undeserving. For me, this happens if I am not dealing with things (day to day) in a healthy way. So for me, It is best when I write these things down and pull them out when I feel a little off. I then reconnect with all the good work that I have been doing and center quickly. Take the power out of the situation and see things for what they are.
Below is one page of activities that are suggest as self-distractions. What are some of your favorite ways to distract when you are upset or feeling down?