You will likely experience extremely strong emotions throughout your recovery journey. Many times, you may feel powerless against the cycle of addiction, leading to moments of heightened distress. Distress can be an obstacle to your recovery. Alternatively, you can choose to use it as an opportunity. The next time you feel distressed, take advantage of this time to practice distress tolerance skills. These can help you get through emotionally difficult times without relapsing.

Distress Tolerance Skills

These skills are used to help alleviate the effects of distress. Distress tolerance skills are tools and techniques designed to assist you in effectively handling difficult emotions and situations that arise. They can help you calm your body and avoid impulsive actions in the meantime.

Distress tolerance skills are a concept derived from dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This is a therapeutic approach that focuses on teaching individuals how to regulate their emotions.

Types of Distress Tolerance Skills

At Dream Recovery, we will provide you with the opportunity to learn many distress tolerance skills. You can apply them any time you feel intense emotions. Instead of being more vulnerable to relapse during these times, you can manage your heightened emotional energy in healthy and constructive ways.

The following six types of distress tolerance skills are great places to start.

#1. Purposeful Distraction

When strong emotions arise, we may simply need an escape from the situation. Of course, substance use is an unhealthy method of escaping reality. Ultimately, you want to build a life you won’t want to escape. Healthy and temporary forms of distraction, however, may be warranted in times of acute distress.

Diversion and delay are often effective techniques for relieving distress. Diverting activities take your mind off stressful thoughts or situations while your body processes the shock. Activities like going for a walk, listening to music, or cleaning your living space may provide diversion.

These activities can help you delay your immediate response. This allows you to be calmer when you approach the situation to consider what to do. Waiting to be calm before acting can help you avoid impulsive decisions.

#2. Gratitude Practices

Expressing gratitude is another distress tolerance skill. It shifts your focus from your immediate situation to the positive aspects of your life. This can help you avoid falling into despair.

Gratitude practices are great for stress management. They loosen the negative thought patterns that reinforce stress responses. In moments of key distress, you might ask yourself to list five good things about your life. If you want to incorporate gratitude into your routines, consider keeping a gratitude journal.

#3. Self-Soothing Activities

This is a distress tolerance skill that uses sensory experiences to lessen feelings of distress. Self-soothing activities may include:

  • Listening to music
  • Taking a warm bath
  • Getting a massage
  • Lighting a scented candle
  • Cooking a delicious and healthy meal
  • Spreading scented lotion on your skin
  • Practicing yoga

Any relaxation technique that activates one or more of your five senses can be self-soothing. By engaging your senses, your focus is shifted from your overall situation to the present safety of your body. This helps you practice grounding and feel more in control of your emotions during times of distress.

#4. Opposite Action Behaviors

Another way to gain control of your emotions is to use opposite action behaviors. To take an opposite action, you do the exact opposite of what your emotions are telling you to do.

For instance, if you feel sad and unmotivated, you might force yourself to go for a walk. Alternatively, you might reach out to friends. If you feel full of rage and energy, you might decide to sit down and practice deep breathing.

This helps you avoid feeding into emotional cycles. It can even help you change how you’re feeling over time.

#5. Radical Acceptance

The technique of radical acceptance involves accepting reality without trying to alter it. This can be challenging at first, as it may cause you to feel out of control. Radical acceptance can be very beneficial, though. It allows you to lower your expectations and accept the things that you cannot change as they are.

Acceptance of reality can relieve some of the anger, frustration, and sadness associated with trying to control things beyond our power. Radical acceptance doesn’t mean giving up or trying to not feel emotions. Rather, it means acknowledging reality for what it is while choosing to concentrate on changing what can be changed.

#6. Social Connection

Strengthening positive relationships is important in managing distress. Establishing a support system of people who care and understand your struggles can be extremely beneficial during difficult times. At Dream Recovery, you have an opportunity to meet other individuals on the path toward sobriety. This allows you to form support networks with those who understand exactly what it’s like for you.

Your support network can provide encouragement and advice while giving encouragement back in return. As important as it is to build relationships with others, it’s equally essential that you develop positive relations with yourself. This may involve practicing self-compassion and remaining kind when facing hardships in your own life.

Learning Distress Tolerance Skills in Recovery

With support from Dream Recovery’s community as well as distress tolerance skills, you’ll be equipped to overcome heightened emotions. You can calm yourself and avoid impulsivity. This can help you build a healthier and happier future for yourself and your loved ones. Implement these skills today to set yourself up for a successful recovery.

Distress tolerance skills are tools and techniques designed to assist individuals in effectively managing and tolerating difficult emotions and situations, like addiction recovery. Dream Recovery offers various distress tolerance skills you can implement into your journey toward sobriety. When you experience heightened levels of distress, these tools may be essential to help you relax, avoid impulsive actions like relapse, and reapproach the situation when you’re ready. These skills can help by allowing your body to calm down while your mind is still processing the shock and distress. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and would like to learn more about distress tolerance skills, reach out to Dream Recovery today at (657) 216-7218.

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