How to Use DBT Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance is simply that — tolerating distress.  It can be done with four elements.  Note that these are not really steps; they work together in unison to make a calmer version of you.

  1. Eliminate Negative Coping Skills — This is literally the hardest part.  Believe me, I know.  But if you can teach yourself to stop cutting, stop drinking, and all of those things about which you hear the same things a million times ( “That’s so bad for you,” as an example) it will be like having a weight lifted off your shoulders.  You can slowly wean yourself off of these habits by making better habits.  For example, distracting yourself, as we’ll learn now.
  2. Distract yourself — I’ll come out with a great big list of distraction methods later, but my favorites are listening to music and cleaning my room.  When you feel stressed out, identify the trigger, know that it’s there, and distract yourself from it.
  3. Radically Accept — I once had an English teacher who had the mantra “It is what it is.”  Turns out, she was right.  When something is bothering you, decide on whether you can change it.  If you can’t, find a way to tell yourself “it is what it is,” even if you don’t believe it in that moment.  Slowly you may start to see a turn in your way of thought.
  4. Use the Five Senses — Listen to music.  Pet your dog.  Suck on a lollipop or hard candy.  Use aromatherapy.  Look at art.  As you do these things, focus on the sense that you’re using.  Channel your energy through this sense.

And that’s it for now, folks.  If you have any questions on distress tolerance (or anything DBT, for that matter), don’t hesitate to ask me.

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    Master distress tolerance skills to minimise the negative consequences of impulsivity.
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