Relieve Your Stress with DBT

My Daily Skimm reminded me that it is Stress Awareness Month. Skimm writers shared wonderful ways to manage burnout and even highlighted the benefits of meditation!

In our fast-paced environments, it is very important to be mindful of ourselves, our needs and to better manage the stress we face. In our day-to-day lives, it is easy to disregard the “normal” stress we feel from our jobs or school, traffic, relationships, finances and more. We push through in “survival mode” until we feel burned out, exhausted and often resentful.

DBT has an entire module called Distress Tolerance to better manage stress and tolerate painful events, urges, and emotions. Mindfulness is another module in DBT, which provides the foundation for all of the other DBT skills. Mindfulness creates awareness of ourselves and our environment around us and returns our focus to the present moment.

Here are some ways you can relieve your stress with DBT skills:

• Mindfulness
Tune in, observe….where are you right now? Notice your needs. Are you connected to your Wise Mind (Balance between your logical and emotion mind)? Bring yourself back into the present moment, rather than fretting about the past or worrying about the future.

Stop, Take a Step Back, Observe and Proceed Mindfully. Take a breath before reacting and choose how to respond in Wise Mind.

• Pros and Cons
Unsure how to respond in a situation? Write out the pros and cons to using your skills and being effective and pros and cons to behaving impulsively or behaving in the way you would otherwise. This practice can be very validating and open your eyes to what the consequences might be in the short and long term.

Tip the Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced Breathing and Paired Muscle Relaxation. These exercises can change your nervous system and help you regulate your emotions fast!

• Distract
Distract yourself from your stressful situation or intense emotions for a short while. Allow yourself time to reduce the emotion and take some space before returning to it in a more skillful place. This can be almost anything! Watch tv, go for a walk, read, call a friend, etc.

• Self-Soothe
Soothe using your senses. What helps you to feel more at peace and relaxed? Take a bath or shower. Light a candle. Drink some tea. Look at the clouds in the sky. Listen to some soothing music.

• IMPROVE the Moment
IMPROVE stands for: Imagery, Meaning, Prayer, Relaxing Actions, One Thing in the Moment, A Brief Vacation, with self-Encouragement and rethinking the situation. Think of a relaxing scene, find meaning in a difficult situation, find a meaningful quote, take a break or a nap, cheerlead yourself!

• Radical Acceptance
Observe that you are questioning or fighting reality. Life can be worth living even with painful events in it. Practice accepting with your whole body by practicing Half Smiling or Willing Hands.

Treat Physical ILlness, Balanced Eating, Avoid Mood Altering Drugs, Balanced Sleep, and Get Exercise. Reduce your emotional vulnerability by making small, manageable changes with your eating, exercise, sleep, etc. and take care of these important needs.

• More DBT Skills
I’m sure there are a few I’m leaving out, as DBT skills are life skills and many can help manage our stress levels. To learn more about our DBT groups and programs, please visit:


Written By: Nora Josephson MA, LPC, RYT

Nora facilitates DBT skills training and leads mindful meditation and yoga at the DBT Center of Orange County.