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.

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