Therapy usually feels like a relief, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it brings up painful memories and emotions. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) module on Distress Tolerance can help reset your emotional balance.
TIP Skills: Change Your Body Chemistry
Tip Skills include:
- Tip the temperature of your face with cold water
- Intense Exercise
- Paced Breathing
- Paired Muscle Relaxation
My favorite Distress Tolerance skill for changing your body chemistry is to Tip Body Temperature. When I took long walks in the winter, I felt euphoric after the initial discomfort of the cold passed. That same feeling can be created by holding your breath and putting your face into a bowl of water. You can also place a bag of cold water on your eyes and cheeks. I prefer to end showers by turning the heat off and placing my face beneath the stream of water.
I think that changing your body chemistry by initiating the dive reflex forces you to accept discomfort and to wait for the peace and exhilaration that follows.
Intense exercise can help you use up the extra energy, usually uncomfortable, so that your body can relax. I enjoy doing this, but I do think that it can worsen a manic episode. DBT was created for people with Borderline Personality Disorder and may not apply to every circumstance of heightened emotion.
For instance, I noticed that boxing was enhancing my PTSD and could lead to mania. So I sold my bag and started yoga. It works better for me than intense exercise while manic or when I experience Fight or Flight.
Using diaphragmatic breathing, place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. With each inhalation, feel your belly rise. Try to only take five to six breaths per minute. It also helps to breathe out very slowly.
Paired Muscle Relaxation
Use diaphragmatic breathing, as explained above, and deeply tense your body muscles. Notice where you feel tension. You can say the words “Relax”, “Peace”, “Let Go”, or whatever works for you.
Changing your emotions by changing your body chemistry is possible. It might take some practice, but once you master it, you can dive deeper into your therapy sessions. Sometimes we avoid difficult memories and emotions because we are afraid of how facing them will feel afterwards.
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