6 Amazing Distress Tolerance Skills

In the current times, stress is something everyone from an infant to a senior citizen goes through. Work stress, family stress, relationship stress, and whatnot.

And managing stress1 is an arduous task, it pops up in the middle of a perfect life and can create emotional, physical, or mental crises.

One must be handy with the ‘stress tool kit’ for limiting the degrading stress or epitome of distress. To build your cooling mechanism, you should try out distress tolerance skills.2

Distress tolerance skills are a toolkit that comprises techniques that you can practice whenever stress attacks.

Before we leap to our distress tolerance skills and learn about them, we must recognize what distress is and when we need to take out the distress toolkit.

How Stress Transforms Into Distress

Distress means when you are all exhausted and on the verge of giving up. It snatches your motivation and, you might feel not to go ahead with your daily routine even.

Physical, mental or, emotional melting is very much a part of distress. Slowly and gradually, stress piles on to transform into distress.

To have a better insight into symptoms and how to cope with distress.3 Click here.

DBT And Distress Tolerance Skills

Marsha M. Linehan gives us Dialectical behaviour therapy. DBT distress tolerance skills are a modified approach to CBT.

  • DBT or dialectal behaviour therapy commonly works to increase awareness about the triggers that persuade reactions.
  •  It also helps in assessing the coping skills to get out of the distress.
  • It helps in regulating emotions and thoughts in painful situations.

Dialectical behaviour therapy DBT 4works for borderline personality disorder. DBT skills help in improving mental health and self-harm thoughts.

What Are Distress Tolerance Skills?

Dialectical behaviour therapy DBT consists of distress tolerance DBT skills developed to soothe a person. When you are feeling overwhelmed or caught in any self-harm act, these skills help you to manage.

Mainly distress tolerance skills work on three links of the behavioural chain, that are:

1. Know yourself inside out.

2. Check your thoughts, emotions, and stress levels.

3. Try to locate its root cause and change your behaviour.

Distress tolerance techniques include-

1st Skill: TIPP

2nd Skill: Self-soothing techniques

3rd Skill: STOP

4th Skill: Pros and Cons

5th Skill: IMPROVE

6th Skill: Radical acceptance

1st Skill: TIPP or Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced breathing and, Paired muscle relaxation.

If you are looking for some quick fixes to avoid those self-harm thoughts, TIPP will help you. It is among the distress tolerance skill that will help you to cool down in seconds.

distress tolerance skills
image source: John Hain / pexels

Let’s understand TIPP in brief.

1. Temperature

The very first move is to control your increased temperature. Whenever you are under stress, your thoughts and emotions juggle up and also increase your body temperature.

In such situations, your body’s cooling system works harder but, the result is disappointing.

Water is at your rescue to manage the temperature. Sip cold water, and you can also splash some cold water to get quick relief.

2. Intense Exercise

Your increased energies need some let-out to make you feel easy. The best thing one can do is to practice intense exercises to deviate your mind.

But what are you planning to do when you are in distress? Run from desk to desk? Jumping ropes at your seminar?

Intense exercise needs to be office, school, or party-friendly. Not much but, you can try high jumps or brisk walking next time whenever you are distressed.

3. Paced Breathing

Distress increases your blood pressure, and paced breathing, keeps a check on it.

In paced breathing, a person needs to inhale profusely, count up to 3, hold her breath for a second, and release.

Rhythmic breathing maintains body temperature and lowers blood pressure which reduces further chances of health deterioration. It also helps you whenever you are in emotional pain.

4. Paired Muscle Relaxation

Stress not only builds up in your mind but also makes your body and muscles stiff. It increases pressure in muscles and makes you feel more stressed physically.

How can you relax your muscles? You can self-soothe in three steps:

1. Stretch your arms muscles, hold them till you count to 5, release, and relax.

2. Stretch your legs, hold and relax.

3. Raise your shoulders, bring them near your ear hold, them till you count 5. Now drop your shoulders. It will relax your neck and shoulder muscles.

Try not to create extra pressure on your muscles.

2nd skill: Self-Soothing Skills

It is not easy to think of an exercise or activity when you are in an emotional crisis. But your senses can help you through.

The next on the list of distress tolerance skills is self-soothing using your five senses as your distress tolerance toolkit.

1. Focus Your Sight On Something Else.

Use your eyes to focus on your surroundings. Start counting the number of lights, fans, or even tables and chairs to divert your focus.

With deviated mind, your agitation will soothe in seconds.

2. Hear Your Favorite Song

What you hear is very powerful in determining your mood. If you ever encounter distress, focus on sounds in your surroundings.

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Image from Shutterstock

Focus on sound in ambiance, could birds sing outside or put on your earphones and turn on the radio?

Have a soothing playlist on your phone.

3. Eat Something

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Image from Shutterstock

To suppress that surging distress volcano, keep some toffee or chewing gums in your pocket. Food uplifts your mood and makes you feel better.

4. Smell The Fragrances Around

Next on the self-soothing list is your nose. Whatever comes to your nose, whether good or bad smell, focuses on it.

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Image from Shutterstock

Focus on your room freshener or any other smell that comes to your nose.

5. Feel What Is In Your Hands

Concentrate on what is in your hand to self-soothe yourself. If you are holding a file, try to feel it. Run your fingers on your file and try to feel its texture.

If you are standing touch, and feel the texture of your clothes.

6. Move Around The Area.

Apart from using your five senses, you can pace up your movement. Whether to get out of emotional turbulence or to release tension in muscles, move your body.

Hike around your office or tune in to your favourite song and move your hands and legs.

3rd Skill: STOP or Don’t React. Take some time, Observe Around And Proceed With A Wise Mind.

It is the easiest to practice distress tolerance skills.

S-stop tells a person to wait and not to move ahead with a stressful mind or whenever you feel emotional pain.

T-take time to react allows you to cool down or if you find any situation intimidating, take a step back.

O-observe here means focusing on what is your feeling. What exactly, this emotion is? What is its root cause?

P-Proceed in a composed manner. This last step of proceeding is preceded by looking at your emotions, and mental and physical state. Then control your emotions add to make a wise move.

4th Skill: Pros And Cons

It could not be easy to make wise choices, especially when you are not in a perfect frame of mind. Still, dialectal behaviour therapy DBT suggests another technique that is Pros and cons.

Before reacting, it is beneficial to make a list of the Pros and cons of your behaviour. Does a mind map analyze the Pros of your behaviour? It helps in deciding what to do next.

5th skill: IMPROVE Or Imagine, Meaning, Prayer, Relaxation, One Thing In The Moment, Vacation, And Encouragement

1. Imagine

When you have freedom in your thoughts, imagine you are out of a difficult situation. Imagine something positive. Whatever is stressing, you have overcome that situation.

2. Meaning

Situations are lessoning you to try to find something good in a state of affairs. Try to find out meaningful takeaways so you can see situations as opportunities.

3. Prayer

Praying brings solace. It calms your nerves. Just surrender your hardships to God and the universe and let the angel spirit be your guide.

4. Relaxation

Relax your mind, body, and soul. Distress makes you feel heavy and physically exhausted. Try out some relaxing exercises to regain your lost energy.

5. One Thing In The Moment.

Calm down and focus on a thing instead of working out different works. Channelize your energies in that task.

6. Vacation

Plan a trip it, can also be a small road trip or stay on vacation as long as you want. De-stress yourself and prepare for new challenges ahead.

7. Encouragement

distress tolerance skills
image source : Anna Tarazevich/ Pexels

It’s the perfect time to encourage yourself to use encouraging affirmations like:

“I can do this. I am capable of facing challenges.”

6th Skill: Radical Acceptance

The hardest thing is to accept. Radical acceptance is to know your negative feeling, and accepting, furthermore dealing with them.

Predominantly, we run from reality. Face up to your feelings releases all build-up.

Radical acceptance is a technique of accepting what you are feeling in the moment. If you are afraid of your presentation, you need to accept it and start some positive self-talk.

The Final Word

Distress tolerance skills are helpful in borderline personality disorder. It employs a set of skills to cope with a stressful situation. It improves mental health and, the skills are outrightly supportive if you want some quick fixes for distress.

These skills make use of distraction that increases your tolerance. Don’t forget to try these out!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does distress mean?

A person’s psychological, social, moral, or bodily anguish or suffering might make them feel lonely, depressed, terrified, sad, or scared. People who are distressed could also think that they cannot handle or cope with changes.

2. What is distress class 10?

The state of the body, while it is experiencing pain or difficulties, is distress class 10.

3. What are the 2 types of stress?

Stress that adversely impacts you is called distress, but stress that benefits you is called eustress.

To read more interesting articles, click here.

Infographic That Explains Why Are Emotion Regulation Skills Important
Icy Health
  1. Seaward, Brian Luke. Managing stress. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2017. ↩︎
  2. Muhomba, Monicah, et al. “Distress tolerance skills for college students: A pilot investigation of a brief DBT group skills training program.” Journal of College Student Psychotherapy 31.3 (2017): 247-256. ↩︎
  3. Blount, Ronald L., et al. “The influence of environmental factors and coping style on children’s coping and distress.” Clinical Psychology Review 11.1 (1991): 93-116. ↩︎
  4. O’connell, B., and Maura Dowling. “Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) in the treatment of borderline personality disorder.” Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing 21.6 (2014): 518-525. ↩︎

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