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DBT and Me
Explaining how this advanced psychological coping technique can be positioned to help us through everyday problems.
DBT – that’s Dialectical Behaviour Therapy to the uninitiated – has really come to the fore in the past few years as a recognised school of thought that guides people through some of the most serious psychological stumbling blocks.
Developed initially to treat borderline personality disorder, with further application to those affected by suicidal or self-harm tendencies, its techniques are now being applied to those looking to weave a path through very simple, everyday problems – from coping with an increased workload to managing childcare.
It all adds up to offering effective ways so that we might use a selection of tools to help combat fear on the way to living a happier, calmer life.
This term can sometimes seem vague, but at its core it simply means paying attention to the present to stop intrusive thoughts from sneaking in.
Mindfulness is about being focused on a person’s immediately vicinity, blocking out the stresses and emotions brought about by thoughts that don’t have a place or any real practical use in our immediate actions.
Practising mindfulness is very simple. Perhaps begin by sitting in the garden for five minutes and notice all the sights, smells, sounds and sensations around you. Touch leaves, smell flowers, feel the sun on you. Make time and space so that you can practise this skill regularly and you will soon find yourself automatically living more in the moment.
And mindfulness is about more than just sitting in the garden. You can be undertaking any task that puts you ‘in the moment’. So think about exercising, being creative and even eating. The focus is on a meditative appreciation of the moment and the positive sensations of those precious seconds in which you are truly enveloped in yourself.
Interacting with others
Stressful periods can emanate from things are polar ends of the spectrum – from increased workload to the sort of boredom we have all encountered through lockdown, and when this anxiety arrives, it can take a toll on even our closest relationships as tensions build.
For this season, DBT encourages us to nurture both our relationships with others and ourselves. In conflicts, it suggests we take time to listen to the other person, validate that we have heard them, and then practise empathy to further deepen our understanding.
Interacting with others requires an initial investment of our own – it is about freeing ourselves from the shackles and stresses of our everyday schedules so that we can give friends and loved ones the attention they deserve without our minds being clouded by work or life worries.
DBT is particularly useful when we are in times of crisis. It provides a quick and effective way to soothe the mind and free the body of anxiety, but first we must get to that place of calm.
Here are some recommended methods, using ‘TIPP’. Each of these will help reverse feelings of distress:
- Temperature. Splash cold water on your face or hold an ice cube; anything to take the heat from your body
- Intense exercise. Run around the block, do star jumps or jog up and down the stairs to work the tension out
- Paced breathing. Take long steady breathes to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system
- Paired muscle relaxation. Tense and relax muscles throughout your body until you feel calm
Life can feel painful and out of our control, but DBT encourages us to accept rather than push back against our reality. Accepting, however, doesn’t mean you have to like what is happening, it simply steers you away from you can’t control to focus on what you can.