Handling the Holiday Season with DBT's Distress Tolerance and Crisis Survival Skills

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Ah, the holiday season. It’s often hailed as the most wonderful time of the year, but let’s face it, it can also be quite stressful. Dealing with intense emotions during family gatherings, financial pressures, and the pressure to keep up the holiday cheer can be overwhelming. Luckily, there’s a therapy approach called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) that offers practical tools. These can help you manage those rollercoaster emotions and survive the holiday season with a little more ease.

Handling the Holiday Season with DBT's Distress Tolerance and Crisis Survival Skills

DBT was originally designed to support individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder, but it has proven to be helpful for anyone struggling with mental health challenges. It emphasizes important skills like mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. These skills can significantly improve your quality of life, especially during the holiday season. In this blog, we’re going to focus on distress tolerance and crisis survival skills, giving you the tools you need to navigate the holidays with less stress.

Skill #1: Distract

When the holiday blues hit, staying in the present moment can be tough. But fear not, DBT’s ACCEPTS skill can help. It teaches us to shift our focus to a more positive or neutral activity temporarily. Whether it’s watching a funny video, diving into a good book, or challenging yourself with a puzzle, these distractions can help divert your attention from those negative feelings. Make a list of activities you enjoy and keep it handy for those moments when you need a wholesome distraction.

Skill #2: Self-Soothe

During the holiday hustle and bustle, finding some alone time can be a challenge, but it’s crucial. Practicing self-soothing techniques can be a game-changer. Indulge in a hot bath, treat yourself to a cup of cocoa, get lost in a good book, or let calming music wash over you. Engaging your senses with activities like smelling essential oils or cozying up in soft fabrics can ground you amidst the holiday chaos.

Skill #3: Radical Acceptance

We all have those certain family members who know just how to push our buttons during holiday gatherings. But instead of engaging in arguments or letting their words get to you, why not try radical acceptance? This skill helps us acknowledge the reality of the situation without resistance. Yes, you can’t control others’ actions or words, but you hold the power to control your reactions. Remind yourself that you don’t have to accept or approve of their behavior, but you can accept that it exists and focus on your own well-being.

Skill #4: Creating a Crisis Plan

Sometimes, emotions become too overwhelming, no matter how hard we try. That’s when having a crisis plan can be a lifesaver. A crisis plan is a detailed list of actions to take during various crises if they arise. Include the contact details of your therapist, supportive friends, or family members, as well as coping activities that have helped you in the past. Keep in mind, creating a crisis plan is not about expecting a crisis, but being prepared for any situation that may arise.

The holiday season is a whirlwind that can often leave us feeling a bit off balance. But fear not—with the help of DBT’s distress tolerance and crisis survival skills, you can navigate the holiday rollercoaster with a bit more grace. These skills offer a sense of control and empowerment during the most hectic time of the year. Remember, self-care is crucial, so prioritize your well-being. If you’re struggling or need additional support, reach out to a mental health professional who can guide you on your journey.

For more information about distress tolerance skills, as well as other helpful tools and tips, visit Mental Health Tools 4U.