DBT: Build Your Self-Esteem Through Building Mastery

Have you started and stopped so many interests and hobbies over the years that you can no longer keep track?  When we walk away from things repeatedly due to lack of interest or because we get anxious when things begin to get challenging, this can contribute to a feeling of failure.

While it's natural to eventually give up interests when they are no longer interesting, if we can push ourselves when interests simply become challenging, we can achieve a sense of gratification by practicing a DBT skill called "Build Mastery."

This skill involves engaging in activities that make us feel competent and effective so that we don't feed into feeling helpless and hopeless. We transform our situation from feeling like a victim to feeling victorious.

I'll give you an example. Over the years, I've really wanted to learn Spanish. I tried a variety of methods, including CDs and a class at a community college. Whenever it got "too hard" I'd get anxious and emotionally dysregulated, and instead of sticking with it anyway, it became "all or nothing" for me. I'd just quit and come up with lots of different reasons to justify my decision so I wouldn't feel badly. The thing is, I did feel badly that I didn't follow through.

Recently I started the Rosetta Stone online program, and I've been sticking with it! There are some days when I feel so lost on the lessons. I might engage with a coach or another learner and feel quite inferior when I realize that I'm not as advanced as they are. I've been tempted many times to quit and have come up with reasons to justify it. But, despite this, I've continued on with my studies.

I may have taken a break for a day, but then I've gotten right back on it. The emotional payoff of following through, not giving up, and building mastery, has re-affimed for me that:

  •  We can still follow through even when we "don't feel like it," and doing so will feel great!
  •  Choosing to practice the Build Mastery skill allows us to enjoy a sense of accomplishment.

You can practice this skill today by picking an activity to accomplish. It should be something that is challenging but still possible. Go into it with the attitude that you will follow through and succeed.  Try not to set the bar too high, but if you find you have, try doing something not quite as challenging to start, and each time you practice, allow yourself to do increasingly difficult tasks.

Building Mastery falls under the Emotion Regulation skill set in DBT.  Can you see how practicing this skill could help you to regulate your emotions? What can you do to Build Mastery today?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

DBT: Judging and Splitting vs. Compassionate Consideration

Like most families  mine often seems to have its fair share of drama. It's one of the reasons I moved 3,000 miles away as soon as I was old enough to do so (naively believing, of course, that I wouldn't experience my own -- if only I got away from them.)

Years later, the drama continues from afar. I find that I am often very critical and judgmental when I hear about how one of my cousins ended up in jail for violent behavior and that another one has putting drugs before her children.

But, once I notice that I'm judging, my heart often softens.  I wonder if the person I'm judging is truly coping the best he or she really can.  Maybe my cousin who gets physically aggressive feels so unheard and angry and is so affected from being a veteran that he simply doesn't know or trust a better way of coping. Maybe drugs are the only way my other cousin believes she can cope with or numb the pain of years worth of trauma and sadness.

It would seem so, because I hear about the same behaviors repeatedly...but who am I to judge?  I wonder how many people shook their heads in disbelief hearing that I had quit another job, was in the hospital again, or any other number of behaviors that I repeatedly engaged in when I had no other tools in my emotional toolbox.

In DBT, we practice being non-judgmental in relationships by refraining from labeling people as "all good" or "all bad." We observe and notice that people - all people - truly are a mix of both.

The next time you catch yourself making a generalized statement about someone, just notice it. Consider if it is a judgment, then compassionately consider that you may not have all pieces of the story. The person may be coping as best as he or she can at this time, with the tools he or she has.

Extend that same compassion to yourself as well.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

You may also enjoy reading:

Splitting in Borderline Personality Disorder - The Pedestal Push
Spotting Black or White Thinking & Finding Shades of Grey

DBT: Escaping Past Hurts and Future Worries Through Mindfulness

Have you ever tried one of those mindfulness exercises where you try to be "in the present moment"? Because the phrase has been overused so many times, it's lost a lot of impact in term of what it means to practice this -- but being in the present moment is part of the Mindfulness skills module in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and it is a powerful tool in recovery.

Eckhart Tolle, in his book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, Eckhart beautifully explains how practicing this skill can help us to eliminate unnecessary worrying and suffering and finally find peace in our minds. (It does take repeated practice.)

I actually carry a copy of this around with me and extra copies to leave in random places to "bless" other people.  You might consider doing the same.

It reads:

"Are you worried? Do you have many "what if" thoughts? You are identified with your mind, which is projecting itself into an imaginary future situation and creating fear.

There is no way you can cope with such a situation, because it does not exist.  It's a mental phantom.

You can stop this health and life-corroding insanity by simply acknowledging the present moment. Become aware of your breathing. Feel the air moving in and out of your body. Feel your inner energy field.

All you ever have to deal with, cope with, in real life -- as opposed to imaginary mind projections -- is this moment.

As yourself what 'problem' you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now.
What is wrong with this moment?

You can always cope with the Now, but you can never cope with the future -- nor do you have to.  The answer, the strength, the right action, or the resource will be there when you need it, not before, not after."

(-- Eckhart Tolle,  A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose)

I hope this example helped bring this skill to life for you.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

DBT: Emergency Skills for an Emotional Crisis

There are times when things get so overwhelming that we have to stop in our tracks and take care of ourselves -- and quickly.  This is a video I made this past summer about this topic.

Are you feeling overwhelmed with too many emotions and upsetting situations happening all at once?  Do you want to come up with a plan to prepare for the next time you might feel this way, so that you do not sabotage your life and the hard work you've been trying to do?

This video is for you.

I hope this was helpful to you and that you feel empowered to prepare yourself to cope.

Thanks for reading and watching.
More Soon.

You may also enjoy:

911 Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills for When Your Are Triggered
Stop Sabotaging: A 31-Day DBT Challenge to Change Your Life

Self Soothing For Adult Trauma Survivors

Survivors of trauma often experience exhausting and distressing aftereffects, such as nightmares, flashbacks, and mood changes. A DBT skill that can help calm our nervous system when we experience distress is Self-Soothing, and here's a way that it can be practiced:

Imagine you are in the presence of a baby that you love and care for. The baby becomes distressed. He's crying. His face is turning red. He's all tense, scrunched up, and pouting.  What is your first instinct as to how to soothe this baby? Your answer may hold the key to helping yourself the next time you feel distressed.

Although the concept may seem initially strange, you can give yourself the same kind of self-soothing the next time you're in an emotionally charged state, and it can help!

I actually use this technique. When I imagined the baby scenario, for me, I'd hold the baby in my arms and reassure him that he was okay -- that he was safe. I'd rub his back and softly sing to him.

When I am really distressed, I swaddle up in a soft blanket and reassure myself that I am not in any present danger. I may gently rock or hold myself until I begin to feel calmer.

This is a technique to consider the next time you are feeling dysregulated.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

You may also enjoy reading:

Self Soothing As An Adult
Autogenics for the Ultimate Self-Soothing & Relaxation
Taking Care of YOU: Why and How To Soothe Your Nervous System
Make Your Own DBT Self-Soothing Kit

DBT Skill: Effectively Coping with Urges

Just about everyone struggles with urges from time to time, whether they be around staying away from substances like alcohol or drugs, self-harming, casual sex, or an endless number of things. You are not alone if you struggle with urges that feel overwhelming.

The great news about urges is that, no matter how strong they are, we still  have the power to choose  what action we will take.

If we are tempted to drink or do drugs but our sobriety is a major goal and value of ours, we can call a sober friend, a sponsor, or therapist to help talk us through the temptation so we can avoid following through on it.

If we feel like self-harming, we can again call someone we trust and who is supportive, or if that feels too vulnerable, we can do a DBT Distress Tolerance skill, such as holding an ice cube.

If we feel like having impulsive, casual sex for comfort and to ease loneliness, and we are aware enough to know that that's why we are about to do it, we can stop right there, get to a safe place where engaging in such behavior isn't possible, and distract with skills or soothe ourselves in a non-destructive way.

One of the most empowering moments in my recovery was something that might seem so obvious to people who don't suffer from emotion dysregulation issues: We have the power to choose how we will behave, what will do, and what we will not do -- no matter how strong an urge is.

Remember this the next time you're faced with an intense urge.  Notice how you feel when you choose to overcome the urge rather than give into it. Each time you do it, you build your strength for the next time it comes up. Eventually, the urge could lose most of its power. Imagine that.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

You might also be interested in these posts:

DBT Skill: Distracting for Relief of Obsessive or Ruminating Thoughts (OCD, BPD)

From time to time we all deal with thoughts that are distressing. If there isn't much you can do in the moment to change the circumstances causing you distress, one way to skillfully cope with the flood of thoughts is to mindfully distract yourself.  This doesn't mean that you pretend that the problem isn't there -- of course you know it is. It just means that you are consciously choosing to give yourself a break from dwelling on it for a little while.

Today I was ruminating and obsessing over a certain thought over which I had no control. I realize that this glitch in my thought process is probably due to some extra stress that I'm facing. Because I'm aware of this and the fact that it is only causing me more distress to keep obsessing, I've chosen to distract in a few ways, including:

  • Studying Spanish on Rosetta Stone.
  • Watching a Christmas movie with Spanish audio. (I don't understand much, but the parts I do get are pretty exciting. This takes A LOT of my focus on and attention,making it a great Distraction activity).
  • Chatting on Twitter

Are you currently having distressing thoughts over things you can't control?  What activities might you engage in to distract yourself for a bit?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Here are some other posts you may find helpful:

DBT: Self Soothing with a Bedtime Story (at any age!)

Last night after having an anxiety attack and feeling lonely, I thought back to when I was very little and my mother would read me stories until I fell asleep. I got to know the stories so well that I would catch her when she was tired and tried to skip a page. Just thinking about this positive memory was soothing.

Years later, I ended up in foster homes and then group homes. One of my best memories in the all girls group home was when one of our house mothers would read me bedtime stories. So what if I was fifteen? I felt so much comfort and felt so soothed. Before I moved to another group home, she made a recording of her reading Peter Pan, and I cherished it and listened to it whenever I needed to soothe -- long before I knew anything about DBT.

No matter your age, if you think you would be comforted by someone reading you a bedtime story, I have good news. Last night I did a google search and came up with several websites that offer free recordings.

If your device doesn't do flash (like my iPad), check out this site:


If you have flash, here are a few other options:
Free Children's Books Online (audio)

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

DBT Skill: Describing Without Judgment


This skill helps us to temporarily take away the emotional reaction or attachment to the situation at hand so we can shift into Wise Mind and respond from a more rational place.

Here's an example of ordinary describing of a situation:

"He hasn't called me yet because he doesn't care. He's going to end up leaving me, and I'll be all alone. I can't handle this. He's such a jerk for making me wait."

And, here is how we practice the DBT skill of Describing, removing judgment and just stating the facts as best as we understand them. In this case:

  • Fact: He hasn't called me yet.
  • Fact: I don't know what the circumstances are that are involved in him not calling me back or what it means in terms of his intentions.
  • I had the thought: "He doesn't care." It's just a thought. Just because I think it doesn't mean it's true or accurate.
  • I had the thought: "He's going to end up leaving me, and I'll be all alone." This, again, is just a thought. Just because I think it doesn't mean it's true or accurate.
  • I had the thought: "I can't handle this," but a more accurate assessment is "This is incredibly painful. I am emotional. Not all of the facts are in. I can handle this, even though it feels VERY difficult right now."
  • I had the thought: "He's such a jerk for making me wait." This is a judgment. He may be a jerk, but he may not be. Just because I had this thought doesn't make it so. He could be stuck in traffic, his cell phone battery could have died. It could be a number of things.

Do you see the difference? How might you apply the DBT Describing skill to a situation that you are stressing about in your life right now? How might it help you?

Tonight I will mark the Describing and Wise Mind skills on my DBT Diary Card.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

DBT Skill: Observing / Just Noticing Our Experience

Observing is a mindfulness skill, and it takes some discipline and focused attention in order for it to work for us. It is considered one of the "Taking Hold of Your Mind" skills in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

When we practice observing, we try to be like a baby who doesn't yet have words for his or her experience. A pre-verbal baby observes the experience at hand without being able to label it or judge it.  Click here for an example of an exercise we once did in DBT class to practice this skill.

According to Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of DBT, we practice observing by:

  • Just noticing our experience without getting caught up in it or reacting to it
  • Allowing our feelings, thoughts, etc. to come and go, like clouds in the sky
  • Staying with our experience -- not pushing away or clinging to anything -- just allowing things to unfold
  • Noticing what we experience through each of your senses

I practiced this skill tonight as I noticed I was becoming quite anxious.  I had some muscle tension and a slight headache, and as I began to stress about why I was in discomfort, I noticed that my heart began to race. I was starting to have a panic attack.  Instead of labeling everything that was happening, I just sat back and observed. (I've had SO many anxiety and panic attacks over the years that I have come to grips with the fact that it's best to NOT resist them but to let them run their course. It's much quicker this way and involves far less suffering.)

At the time, I did my best to just watch and let things pass. I noticed but resisted labeling or judging the experience (the next thing I did was practice describing, which allows for stating facts, such as "heart is racing fast," "anxiety is coming up for me"), but in the meantime, I just watched and waited until the anxiety subsided.

Today I will check off the following skills on my DBT Diary Card:

  • Observe
  • Describe

Have you practiced this skill in the past? Have you found it helpful? Might you give it a try?

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

DBT Skills for Coping With Loneliness

I recently wrote a piece on how I'm coping with loneliness at my personal blog. Loneliness is a difficult state to be in, but the good news is that no matter how difficult it may feel to reach out and connect with others, there is a multitude of ways we can do so and still feel safe.

If you want to remain relatively anonymous, you can join Twitter and connect with others who share similar interest, such as #DBT.

If you want to be around others, you could go out to eat or to have a coffee. I did both of those things today.

I treated myself to a nice lunch at a cafe. The weather was quite cozy with pouring rain. I thought that I might feel self conscious sitting alone, but I just mindfully focused on my meal, and the experience was quite soothing.

I didn't rush. I ate slowly, listened to the workers joking around, and couldn't help but overhear interesting conversation at the table next to mine. Even though I wasn't I interacting (except when I ordered my meal) it felt good to be around others.

Later in the day, I had a similar experience at Starbucks. I ordered a decaf latte and sat and sipped it slowly. I overheard interesting interactions and enjoyed the jazzy Christmas music that played while the workers talked about their holiday schedules.

I also read the newspaper, which seems like a lost art these days. It was a great distraction and actually quite soothing.

If you've been feeling lonely and don't know where to start, remember that your efforts do not have to be all or nothing. Before giving this a try, I experienced the dialectical thought that I either had to be a social butterfly -- accepting all social invitations and handling them perfectly -- or I wasn't worthy of others' company and should just be alone.  Neither extreme is true. There are shades of grey in the middle. You can start with, "I want to make an effort to connect with others more," and then go from there.

The skills I'll be checking off on my DBT Diary Card tonight are:

  • Wise Mind: I was able to notice a dialectical thought and come up with a more reasonable shade of grey.
  • One-mindfully in-the-moment: When I ate, I just ate. When I listened to conversations, I just listened. When I read the newspaper, I just read the newspaper. This skill is about just one thing at a time in the moment.
  • Build Mastery: I built on my skills by practicing them in a more social setting.
  • Build Positive Experiences: Each time we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and toward a goal, we become more comfortable and at ease with the new situation. Also, we build positive experiences by doing things we enjoy or that we might enjoy.
  • Opposite To Emotion Action: I got out of the house and into social-type settings.
  • Distract: Activities (going out to eat and for coffee, reading the newspaper, went for a walk)

I hope this was helpful to you in some way.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

DBT Distress Tolerance: Crisis Survival Skills

Life can sure throw us some curve balls. At any time, unexpectedly, something can happen that will test our ability to respond skillfully to the core.  I had such a moment today. Fortunately, there are DBT skills we can when we are in a situation that is intense, sudden, and where there is nothing more that we can do other than wait.

When life throws curve balls, Distress Tolerance skills can be our safe haven.

These skills are considered "Crisis Survival Strategies" and are "[s]kills for tolerating painful events and emotions when you cannot make things better right away," as is my situation right now (Linehan, 1993). When there is nothing else you can do about your crisis situation, it is important to find effective ways to cope with/tolerate the distress in the meantime so that you don't make maters worse for yourself.

There are many skills in this module, but tonight I'll just share the ones I'll be using and checking off on my DBT Diary Card tonight:

  • Pushing Away (under Distract with Wise Mind ACCEPTS): I will be imagining putting all thoughts about this situation in a box on the shelf. Each time a thought comes up, I will put it in the box.  Ordinarily, we don't want to ignore our experience, but think of this as a conscious, deliberate act of self-care. If you're ruminating/obsessing over something over which you have no control and that you cannot affect or change in the moment, practicing Pushing Away is an act of kindness to yourself.
  • Self-Soothe through the senses: I'll be focusing on a few senses. For taste, I'll have a chocolate covered cherry.  For smell, I'll use an aromatherapeutic body wash. I have two favorites right now -- a blood orange flower scented wash and a tropical island scented scrub.  For touch, I'll be cuddling up on the couch with my warm, fleece blanket in comfy fleece pajamas with my two, soft, furry cats.
  • Activities (under Distract with Wise Mind ACCEPTS):  I will distract by practicing my Spanish lessons with Rosetta Stone and watching some good programs on television.
  • Opposite to Emotion Action (under Distract with Wise Mind ACCEPTS): The television programs I choose will be those that I believe will help me smile and laugh, which will counteract the fear and the behaviors/impulses that come with fear.

I'll also be staying in JUST this moment -- not worrying about the future -- as best as I possibly can. Imagining things going well and working out just fine is also on the agenda.

What skills do you find helpful when you must accept things for what they are, and there's nothing more you can do?

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

P.S. I also did a brief post on this issue at my personal blog, where I got a bit more into the emotional dysregulation I experienced today.  Click here to read it.

Contributing: A DBT Skill with Ripple Effects

When people first hear of the DBT skill of contributing, they often imagine that they have to do something huge for it to count.  This is not the case. Contributing is any act that you engage in to lift someone else up.

I had a couple of appointments today.  One was a medical appointment, and the receptionist opened her station up only 40 minutes into her 60 minute lunch because she felt bad for the people who were waiting. She told each patient, "The lights are off because I'm not even supposed to be here. I just don't want you all waiting, and I don't want my co-workers to have a huge line when they get back."

As I stood in line, I contemplated on how thoughtful it was of her to do this, but it also sounded as if her choice was a bit self-sacrificing.  Although I of course don't know the full story (maybe she was late for work and her coworkers covered for her earlier in the day -- who knows?), when I got up to her station, I looked at her and said, "Thank you so much for opening up early. At the same time, take care of YOU, too. You deserve to take your breaks."

She smiled, thanked me, and was very sweet throughout the transaction.  I don't know what, if any, impact my words may have had on her, but that was my intention, and I hope I contributed to a better day for her in some way with my words.

The other example that comes to mind from today was an opportunity that I had to validate a peer in group therapy.  He is a father to two grown children, and he was talking about how difficult things have been since his divorce. It was obvious this man was hurting and that he desperately wanted to to do right by his children. When there was a pause, I told him, "They are very lucky to have a father like you who really cares."  He smiled and thanked me. Others nodded and agreed.  I hope I also contributed something positive to his day.

Why not practice contributing today?  Perhaps you can offer a kind word, validate someone, or find another way to let another person know that they matter. And, remember, your choice to contribute matters, too.

Check out this awesome, short, independent film on validating others. It made me cry the first time I watched it (via My Dialectical Life), because it made me realize what a difference we can make, with rippling effects, if only we try.

Today I can check off the following skills on my DBT Diary Card:

  • Build Positive Experiences
  • Improve the Moment
  • Distract  (Contributing falls under this category in DBT, as it is a way to decrease your own distress by focusing on something outside of you and the distressing issue.)

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Portable DBT Skill For Distress Tolerance

If you're not aware of how the simple act of holding ice can be an easy, powerful way to help keep you safe from things like self-harming when in distress, click here to read, "Controlling Impulses by Starting Small: DBT Ice Cube Exercise," then read on.

Yesterday I was inspired when a tweeter said she asked a waitress for a zip lock baggie of ice. She wanted to use the ice to help with distress she was experiencing.

Today I was preparing for some inevitable distress.  I had to take a loved one to the airport. I will miss her greatly while she is away for the next few weeks. Because I know I become emotionally dysregulated when I see her off on her trips, I knew I needed to plan with distress tolerance skills.

Bringing ice cubes with me to the airport wasn't really any option.  Instead, I chilled a bottle of water until it was nearly frozen.  I carried it around in my bag, and in moments of great distress and anxiety, I held it.  The intense cold sensation really helped to ground me and take my mind off of the distressing situation, even if only for a moment here and there.

Next time you have to go to something stressful, be it a doctor's appointment, seeing a loved one off at the airport, grocery shopping -- whatever it is, consider freezing or chilling in the refrigerator a bottle of water and then taking it with you to use for this DBT exercise.  When you feel better, you can drink it and stay hydrated, which is also a healthy choice. :)

Today I can check off the following skills on my DBT Diary Card (click to get a free, printable one for yourself):

  • Distract/Distress Tolerance
  • Build Mastery -- I'm learning Spanish, and I put together the sentence, "La botella de agua está fría,"  meaning "The bottle of water is cold," as I practiced this skill. I hope I got this right. :)

Have you ever used the DBT Ice Cube skill before?  Might you try the water bottle idea? What works for you when you are in distress?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

DBT: Distracting and Self-Soothing in a Modern World Using Youtube

I had a lovely young lady in her twenties comment on one of my recent posts, asking if there were any "modern" ways to distract and self-soothe (this was in response to my post suggesting making a cup of tea).  While I believe that making and enjoying tea will never go out of style and is a good practice and enjoyment at any age, I understood her question.

We live in an age where, if you have internet access, so many resources are available to help create a healthy distraction or self-soothe us.

A healthy distraction, in DBT terms, is something we choose to engage our mind in entirely, in order to take a much needed break from something that is distressing us -- a problem for which there is nothing more we can do in the present moment. We give ourselves a deserved and needed respite from suffering over the issue.

Self-soothing is when we engage in an activity that soothes us through our senses. Cuddling up with a soft blanket, listening to soft music, and looking at pictures of beautiful art are all examples. If the activity calms you and your nervous system and you feel soothed, you are self-soothing.

One modern way I've found to both distract and self-soothe is to watch tutorial type videos on YouTube -- particularly makeup and baking/cooking videos.  Even if I have absolutely no intention of following through on recreating the makeup look or food that is demonstrated in the video, it can be a great distraction to follow along as the person gives instructions, step by step, and I get to watch something be created from beginning to end. (I must confess, I am often inspired in some way by the videos I watch -- especially the makeup ones, and I end up creating something at some point that is related to what I saw. No harm there!)

Here are some examples of some videos you can watch to distract, organized by subject matters you may be interested in.

Check them out, and see if any of them help you distract or self-soothe. You may end up with a new tool in your self-care toolbox!






When I watch videos like this, I may check off the following skills on my DBT Diary  Card:

  • Effectiveness (doing what works)
  • Distract
  • Self-soothe
  • Improve the Moment

What do you think of using YouTube videos to distract and self-soothe? What other "modern" ways do you practice these skills?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

DBT: Opposite to Emotion Action (An Emotion Regulation Skill)

For many of us who are emotionally sensitive and who experience dysregulated emotions (and more so in response to "triggering," or upsetting events), there can be a tendency to believe that if others have suffered, we deserve to suffer with them and that it would be unhuman to go about our lives in a way that would allow us to have some pleasure or to feel good when others are having this experience.

I am not going to get into the details of a recent news story that has many people, whether they have mental illness or not, feeling very triggered/upset, but I am going to tell you this:

Believing and/or acting on the thought "I don't deserve to feel happy when this is going on" is not going to do you or anyone else any good.  Of course we feel badly for others who have suffered. Many of us are immensely empathetic and caring.

There does come a point, though, when getting caught up other peoples' tragedies can be detrimental to our own well-being.

I personally stopped listening to the news since Friday night. I caught a few seconds of it today and was upset just over the snippet of information that I heard. I know enough. There is absolutely nothing more that I could find out that would make me feel better about what has taken place or the fear/anxiety that the situation has created within me.

From fear and anxiety, my emotions seemed to stay at sadness.

When we are experiencing an emotion that we want to change, we practice a DBT skill called "Opposite to Emotion Action," during which we change our emotion by acting in a way opposite to the current uncomfortable emotion.

Here's an example.  If you're sitting in class and you begin to feel very anxious, the action impulse is probably to run and get out of the class. If you were to practice Opposite Action, you would stay seated and allow the impulse to pass. Soon thereafter, the anxiety attack would end, and you would have successfully stayed for the duration of your class.

In the above example, we have the following components:

Emotion: Fear
Action Impulse: To run away
Opposite to Emotion Action: Stay put and ride it out.

Here's an example of how I used Opposite to Emotion Action today to deal with the sadness I felt.  It's going to seem really silly, but I actually challenge you to try it if you are trying to cope with feelings of sadness, depression, or are feeling distraught today.

I turned on the oldies station on the radio, and this song came on. My first thought was "I can't possibly listen to/get into this song." Then I pushed myself. I moved a bit to it. (I was washing the dishes at the time, mind you.)  I then noticed I began to smile. It felt good to let myself feel good, and it helped melt away some of the sadness.

Give it a try.  I'd be very surprised if you don't at least have a half-smile afterward:

When you're done, here are some more posts on Opposite to Emotion Action if you'd like to read up further:

The Power of Opposite Action
Altering Your Mood With Music (DBT Opposite Action)
Songs to Boost Your Mood (Opposite Action and Self-Soothe)
The Impermanence of Emotions: Using Opposite Action for Intense Anxiety
How To Change Your Emotions [IF You Want To]
Living "As If" and Turning the Mind to Avoid an Emotional Crisis

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

DBT for Distorted Thinking: Mind Reading

Sometimes we can get caught up in distorted thinking patterns. In DBT, we learn that thoughts are sometimes just that: thoughts. They are not always facts.

Have you even been really afraid that someone may believe something about you and you convince yourself that they must, even without checking out the facts?  Sometimes when we are afraid, we can project those fears onto other people.

For example, if I am afraid that I am fat, I may accuse you of thinking I am fat.  You may not think that at all. It's just a thought I had. It doesn't make it true.

According to a handout from Kaiser Permanente on recognizing distorted thinking styles, "Mind Reading" can be described as:

Mind Reading: Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you.

I also found this excerpt from a book that was distributed to the members of the DBT group that I attend:

 "Mind reading is the tendency to make inferences about how people feel and think. In the long run, you are probably better off making no inferences about people at all. Either believe what they tell you or hold no belief at all until some conclusive evidence comes your way.  Treat all of your notions about people as hypotheses to be tested and checked out by asking them. If you lack direct information from the person involved, but have other evidence, evaluate your conclusions..."

I challenged some distorted thinking and will be checking off the following skills on my DBT Diary Card:

  • Wise Mind
  • Describe
  • Effectiveness

Do you find yourself getting caught up in distorted thinking sometimes? What skills/strategies have you found helpful during these times?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Soothing Your Frazzled Nerves: DBT With a Cup of Tea

Will a cup of tea change fix your problems or change your life? Probably not. Can preparing a cup and enjoying it improve the moment and help soothe you when you're feeling distressed or dysregulated? Yes! (Though, if you're like me, and you're using tea to calm, you'll want to grab a decaffeinated variety.)

I have a friend who is very grounded and realistic. She is usually in what I would describe as Reasonable Mind. She's good with math and science and loves solving difficult problems.  She also suffers sometimes from anxiety and often from insomnia.  When I suggest little things like making a cup of tea, I'll hear, "What's the point? It's not going to fix my problem."  That's true, but you might feel a little better temporarily. Doesn't that make trying worth it?

Why self-soothe?  

Many of us with emotion dysregulation issues such as Borderline Personality Disorder did not receive enough soothing or we did not learn how to soothe ourselves in times of great distress. Our nervous systems may be more highly reactive. Even those who don't have such issues find comfort in soothing themselves, and it's a skill that we can learn as adults.

I just made myself a cup of Good Earth spicy tea to self-soothe.  It's one of my favorite ways to calm my nerves and be good to me. Yes, it's okay, and actually encouraged, that you be GOOD to yourself. (In my book Stop SabotagingI include an in-depth DBT tea practice. You'd be surprised how many steps are involved in this simple act and how mindfully you can go about it!)

Self-Soothing Skills are covered in the Distress Tolerance module of DBT. 

We can soothe our minds, nerves, and spirits through:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Touch

I actually get to experience all of these with this tea. I am soothed by the sight of steam coming off of my mug. I get a positive nostalgic feeling when my tea kettle whistles (it reminds me of my Nana, who passed away years ago -- she used to use a whistling kettle, too), the tea smells very fragrant with powerful notes of cinnamon and cloves. Taste is an obvious one, and I am comforted through touch by holding the warm mug in my hands.

Today I'll be able to check off Self-Soothing on my DBT Diary Card.

What have you done today to self-soothe?  What are some of your favorite ways to practice this skill?  Can you commit to doing something self-soothing before today is done?

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

DBT Skills for Self-Respect and Building Mastery

Today I snapped at my mother when she called me.  I picked up the phone even though I was in the middle of working with numbers and while I was feeling quite emotionally distressed due to President Barack Obama's tearful press conference regarding a tragic incident that just happened in Connecticut.

I chose to work on some calculations I needed to make as a way to DISTRACT from the difficult emotions and feelings that were coming up with hearing the news on the radio. Initially, I cried and felt sad and devastated. I noticed that I needed to regulate my emotions, and this is where the Distract DBT skill came into play.

In the meantime, my phone rang. When I saw the display and noticed that it was my mother calling, I had a choice to take the call or to let it go to voice mail and call her back.  I took the call and ended up being short and a bit rude. When I realized this, I said, "Ma, can I call you back in a few minutes?" We hung up.

I took some deep breaths. I thought about my INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS skills, particularly Attending to Relationships, Building Mastery, and Self-Respect.  I took some deep, slow, calming breaths. I felt badly that I was mean to my mother.

I collected my thoughts and called her back.

I expressed that I was sorry for being short and rude.  I explained that I had been in the middle of some calculations and that I was emotionally upset about what I had heard on the news. (It turns out that my mother hadn't heard it yet. I shared it with her, and she understood how I could have been so upset.)

By clearing things up, apologizing, and explaining my actions, I was able to interact with my mother in a way that made me feel:

  • competent
  • respectful
  • respectable, and
  • effective
...which are all goals of building mastery and self-respect under theee DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness module.

DBT Skills I'll be checking off on my DBT Diary Card:

Wise Mind: I was able to identify that I was in Emotion Mind and began to think rationally about my emotional reactions. I identified the importance of clearing things up with my mother.

Effectiveness (focus on what works): I took a time-out and asked for one respectfully while on the phone with my mother. I then called her back after I had a few moments to calm down and get into Wise Mind.

Relationship Effectiveness (GIVE): When I called back, I used an easy manner and was very warm in my mannerisms.

Self-Respect (FAST): I was fair to myself, acknowledging my emotional response, and I was fair to my mother, acknowledging that she deserved to be treated with respect.

Build Mastery (from Emotion Regulation Module): I handled the situation in a way that made me feel competent and effective, and I did so promptly. Sometimes I do not respond right away with remedying a situation, and I then end up feeling guilt and shame. I avoided this by practicing dealing with the emotional situation promptly. The more we practice, the more we build mastery of using the skills.

Distract: I distracted by doing the calculations.

See how with just one experience throughout your entire day you can practice your DBT skills?

Did you work on a relationship today?  Did you take a step back after becoming emotional in order to calm down? Which DBT skills did you use?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Free Printable DBT Diary Card

In this post, I've included a sample DBT Diary Card. It is the template I will use for examples that are shared at My Daily DBT.  You can click to enlarge and print it.

Some DBT Cards have an additional top section that addresses behaviors that one may want to reduce, such as alcohol and drug use, self-harm, etc., but this blog will focus just on the skills as shown in this card.

Carry the card around with you so that you can quickly and easily access it when you notice you've practiced a skill. Make a check mark, highlight, or circle the skill. In the space below, jot down notes to remind yourself of examples of how you practiced.  Be sure to bring your diary card to your DBT group or therapy session or keep it for your own records as you practice the skills.

Do you have any questions about the DBT Diary Card or the skills?

Do you have a diary card with a format that you prefer and are willing to share with the community? If so, please click HERE to email it to me.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.


A reader kindly contributed her version of the DBT Diary Card, which you may prefer:

Welcome To My Daily DBT

Welcome to My Daily DBT! My name is Debbie Corso, and you may already be familiar with my work at HealingFromBPD.org.  There, I blog about my experiences as a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder, including my struggles and triumphs applying Dialectical Behavior Therapy to change, improve, create, and build my life.

While I will continue to blog from HealingFromBPD.org with more in-depth, personal examples of my experience, this blog will be more of a daily (or quite frequent, in the least) place to read DBT examples, tips, information, ideas for implementation, and a place to ask questions and share your experience with practicing DBT.

I welcome you with open arms to this new endeavor and look forward to connecting with you here.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.