When you embark on a journey to support your mental health, the most important thing we can do right from the beginning is to ensure we are caring for our emotional vulnerability. Part of being a human being involves experiencing pain. If we, however, integrate daily tools to support ourselves (especially as we expose ourselves to some vulnerable things), the journey becomes more manageable.
This is where the DBT skill, PLEASE, is handy. This skill probably won’t come as a surprise to many people. But, if we don’t use this tool, it can feel that much more challenging, maybe even impossible, to feel to true effectiveness of other tools and skills we might use to support our mental health. PLEASE is a helpful acronym to decrease stress and improve our wellbeing.
PL: treat Physical iLlness
Take care of yourself when you feel sick. Visit your doctor if you need to. If we feel sick, we feel increased emotional vulnerability (and not the helpful kind of vulnerability!).
E : Eat balanced meals
Food is fuel. So eat to support yourself during the day. Eat nutritious foods that make you feel good!
A: Avoid mood altering drugs
Now, I’m not saying a glass of wine at the end of a day is out of the question. You can absolutely have your glass of wine, your beer, a cigarette - just make sure you aren’t using them to excess, or that you aren’t using substances to numb your other feelings. Everything in moderation.
This is a big one! Simply put: if you aren’t getting adequate sleep most nights, make the changes you need to get the rest you need. create a bedtime routine, turn off screens before you wind down for bed, and, if necessary, talk to your doctor. Sleep is so vital for our well-being!
I like to say “move your body,” to reduce any unwanted connotations the word “exercise” has. Whichever way you say it, get moving in a way that feels good for you. The intention in exercising/moving your body is to reduce stress, boost the positive mood-boosting chemicals, and feel more grounded.
Again, this skill covers those things we already know! But, it’s helpful to remember that without these things, any other work we do to support ourselves can feel that much harder.
Right now, many of us are feeling powerless. We might feel stuck, limited in our choices as we sit in our homes navigating a situation that ultimately feels unmanageable. As a result, we often feel unsure about what would help make our situation easier, lighter.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based practice to support us when we are feeling emotionally dysregulated. DBT skills help us tolerate distressing moments in our lives, by validating the distress while actively engaging in activities to ease it.
One of the skills DBT prescribes is ACCEPTS. ACCEPTS is an acronym for active things we can do to support ourselves through these times.
A: Activities. Simply put, do something to get busy. Exercise, clean the house, engage in a hobby. Get moving! Do something that requires enough of your attention to distract you from your unpleasant feeling. In doing so, you’ll also feel productive!
C: Contributing. By giving our time and energy to others, we feel connected to our friends, family and community. This helps us build our positive emotions! In this pandemic, you may feel limited in what you can do. It’s important to remember that any little bit helps: shopping locally, tipping our delivery people well, video chatting with a friend who may be quarantined alone, sending a Venmo tip to our musician and comedian friends continuing to put their work out in the world. Now more than ever is a great time to contribute to others in any way we can.
C: Comparisons. This skill is a tricky one. On one hand, comparing ourselves to others can lead to negative self-image. We can feel scarce, rather than abundant in what we have. Comparison can also be problematic when we use it to compare suffering. All suffering is valid and warrants validation. Comparison, however, can be helpful when expressed from a place of gratitude. It can also be helpful when we compare ourselves to our previous selves, and recognizing the progress we have made.
E: Opposite Emotions. Actively do the opposite of what you are feeling. If you are feeling sad, watch a funny movie. If you feel anxious, do something that calms you down, such as meditation or gentle yoga. If you are feeling like you want to pull away from someone you love and trust out of embarrassment, fear, or shame, reach out to them.
P: Pushing Away. We do not have control over the first thought we have. Many of our thoughts are automatic. We do, however, have control over what follows our automatic thoughts. Our brain is incredibly powerful and can be used to reframe thoughts and use visualization to reduce unwanted thoughts and replace them with wanted thoughts.
T: Thoughts. Distract yourself with a positive thought. Say a prayer, count to 10, count your breaths, think about someone you love. Making a list ahead of time of our positive thoughts can also be helpful.
S: Sensations. Use a physical sensation to provide you with a distraction. This is helpful when we are feeling more dysregulated than usual; times when we feel we’ve tried everything in our bag of tricks, and nothing seems to be helping. Intense sensations, such as splashing cold water on your face, calms the brain for a brief period of time, giving us space to implement other calming tools. Other sensations can be taking a hot or cold shower, listening to loud music, or even listening to soothing sounds, such as rain falling or a meditation bell.