Now that we have Accumulated Positive Emotions, Built Mastery, and Coped Ahead, it is time to put into effect the PLEASE skill! There is no denying that there is a body & mind connection. It’s important to attend to your mental AND physical health to get the best grip on your emotional states. PLEASE breaks down your physical health needs into categories so that you can identify what need improvements, your progress, and what you’re doing great already. Let’s stay in our wise mind today by making healthy choices!
PL – Treat Physical Illness – Make sure you stay on top of any treatments you have for physical issues and take your medications as prescribed. Physical health has a strong tie to mental health and the way that we can handle regulating our emotions.
E – Balance Eating – We all eat some junk food once in a while. It’s not about denying yourself these treats but more about balancing your diet and eating what makes you feel healthy. Check out future posts on mindful eating to learn how to slow yourself down and really enjoy your food. Don’t eat foods that make you feel overly emotional like sugar that could lead to a crash! Really learn how your own body reacts to certain foods. Now I can get a sugar hangover if I have too much soda the night before (welcome to my 30’s!).
A – Avoid Mood-Altering Substances – Avoid drugs and alcohol or use in moderation. Know your limits and how your body reacts to certain substances. Some substances are used for medicinal purposes and it is important to know if they are actually helping or hurting you. This all depends on your own mental and physical chemistry. Some of these medicinal drugs may add to anxiety or depression. It is best to consult a professional and stay in tune with your body and mind.
S – Balance Sleep – Check out my earlier post on sleep hygiene to learn more tips for sleep. Try to get an amount of sleep that is best for you. Keep a consistent sleep and wake cycle everyday. It’s important for our bodies and mind to recharge every night with good quality sleep.
E – Get Exercise – Do a little bit of exercise daily. Take small steps into incorporating exercise into your daily schedule. Try to add more walking into your routine or add in 10 minutes of strength training a day. Hiking and walking outside are definitely two activities I love that provide exercise and an opportunity to enjoy nature.
Here is a cool way to track your ABC PLEASE skills with a fun bingo board:
Leave a comment below on anything you would like to add to PLEASE that has helped you stay well mentally and physically!
Are you anticipating that there could be an issue in the foreseeable future that is causing you anxiety before it has even happened? Do you want to feel more prepared and ready to tackle this challenge?
Learn how to cope ahead of your problems in 5 easy steps!
Describe the situation that may become problematic. What are the facts of the situation? Stay objective in this thinking. What emotions and actions are going to get in the way of using coping skills? Identify those emotions and actions. For example, if you get angry and overwhelmed, you may not be able to use deep breathing techniques.
Decide what coping skills you want to use and the details of these skills. For example, the specific deep breathing technique of “box breathing” will be used for 2 minutes. This is where you can breathe in 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, breathe out 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds.
Imagine what the situation will be that you need to cope with. Paint a detailed picture in your mind of what you could be dealing with. Use your 5 senses to imagine what it could be like. Pretend and visualize that you are experiencing this situation in the present moment.
Rehearse how you will use your coping skills in your mind in detail. How will you act, think, and say? What can you do to cope if new problems arise in the situation. What is the worst case scenario and how can you cope with that?
Relax after rehearsing. What do you do for self-care? Check out my self-care post for some ideas. Can you practice mindfulness techniques and distraction from distressing emotions? My previous grounding techniques post offers some suggestions on how to focus on the present moment to bring relaxation.
Now you are ready to face any difficult situation face on. You’ve imagined the worst case scenario and how you would cope with it. Now the foreseeable event doesn’t seem so daunting!
What are some situations that you would like to cope ahead with? Comment below!
Building Mastery is our “B” in the ABC Skill. This step happens after we have accumulated our positive emotions and before we cope ahead. Once we have worked on some projects and figured out what we like to do, we can start to become more skilled in it to build confidence and increase our self-esteem.
Pick one thing to do everyday that will help you to feel accomplished. This could be cooking one meal, doing a hobby for 30 minutes, cleaning for 10 minutes, walking for 15 minutes, etc. Set a small but achievable goal that you can definitely fit into your schedule.
2. Do not set yourself up for not accomplishing your goal. Do something that is reasonable. You aren’t going to be the master of your hobbies in one day! I love to knit and I know that my projects are never going to come out perfect. I usually drop at least 3 stitches on the way to finishing a scarf but I know that it is made with a lot of love!
3. Starting with an easy task, increase the difficulty slowly until you feel like you are beginning to master the task. Add some challenge to feel that sense of accomplishment.
For more information on how to set small and achievable goals, check out my SMART Goals post!
In a past post, we learned about the difference between the emotional, rational, and wise minds. The emotional mind can overwhelm our thoughts and decision making. This can make it more difficult to align our actions with our values. Our rational minds can lead us to become more robotic with our thinking and lead to us stuffing down our emotions. To create a wise mind, the intersection between emotions and rationality, we can use the ABC skill! Let’s start with the “A”!
A – Accumulate Positive Emotions
This skill is about engaging in healthy activities that make you feel happy. Personally, I love to knit. The clacking of the needles and repetition of knitting make me feel calm and in the present moment. I try not to focus on the finished product and rather the calming feeling I have while just knitting and relaxing on my couch.
Now, give it a try and give your full attention to these pleasant activities to build positive emotions in the present moment. Do not focus on when the activity could end and if you are doing it perfectly. Create the possibility that positive events will happen in the future. Practice the Opposite to Emotion Action skill to work against what is holding you back like anxious thoughts while you are engaging in these enjoyable activities. For example, you may feel anxious that your project isn’t coming out perfectly so practicing the opposite of anxiety would be to distract yourself from those thoughts by putting your full focus on the project.
Here are some examples of Pleasant Activities to try daily (10 out of 225 examples from the DBT Skills Training book):
Listening to Music
Having a quiet evening
Going on a walk
Doing a craft
Playing a sport
Now let’s consider the long-term and stop avoiding what we can do to create a fulfilling life. Discover what values are most important to you and find one value that you would like to improve now.
What are some goals that you can set to improve that value and pick one goal to work on?
What are some small action steps to use to work towards that goal and pick one to take now?
Have you ever been stressed out and imagined yourself relaxing on an empty beach in the warm sun with no cares in the world? Maybe it’s an all-inclusive resort with all food and activities included! Now I’m getting ahead of myself…
Using imagery is an easy way to think of a person, place, or time that brings you peace, happiness, and joy. This can be an imagined future scenario or something in the past. It’s important to use all of your senses to visualize what will help to deescalate difficult emotions in the moment. This is a perfect tool for your coping skills tool kit to use anytime you are feeling stressed be it work, home, or out and about.
Once you think of that peaceful and safe place, situation, or person, really get into the details of it through your 5 senses. What the temperature there? What can you smell or taste? What kind of sounds would you hear? How do you feel in that moment?
A skill I like to use with imagery or visualization is imagining all of your stressors and stressful thoughts being put into a box, taped up, and put on the shelf. This isn’t ignoring your problems, but giving yourself a break until you feel calm enough to attend to those issues. I’ll go more into how to use visualization for difficult thoughts in future blog posts!
Interpersonal skills are part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and a great way to work on improving relationships, developing healthy communication, and ending conflicts and arguments. The THINK skill breaks this down and can be used during difficult situations in relationships with co-workers, friends, family, and acquaintances.
T – Think: Take a step back from the situation that you are in. Visualize the situation on a television screen and take an objective stance on it. Don’t bring emotions into this step!
H – Have Empathy: Think about the other person and put yourselves in their shoes. What are they thinking, feelings, need, or want? What is their perspective on the situation?
I – Interpretation: What are the reasons for the person’s behavior? Start with unrealistic interpretations and move to more realistic ones. Even be silly with it until you can get to the more realistic reason. Maybe they aren’t answering your calls because they were abducted by aliens! Or maybe a more realistic reason is because they are in a business meeting.
N – Notice: Keep an eye on body language, facial expressions, and whether the person is trying to stop or continue the conflict. Is the person showing that they care and are trying to make things better?
K – Kindness: Be kind and direct. It is okay to take a break from the conversation and continue later when everyone is calmer.
Try this skill on the following scenario: Your friend does not text you back for days. Your reaction may be anger or disappointment. Take a step back from the situation and put yourself in your friend’s shoes. Are they struggling with something lately? What is a realistic reason that they are not returning your texts? Notice how they have been acting recently and interpret this in a kind way when confronting the situation. Using this skill on a scenario like this will help you to improve your relationship with your friend and increase your use of empathy and understanding.
Life can be hard and have difficult moments. Our perspective on a situation can change the way we feel about it and ourselves. Do we want to have shorter pain or longer suffering? This depends partly on how we view and react to a situation. Can we use the lemons life gave us to make lemonade? This is an interesting concept that can help you change your perspective to change your emotional state.
We are not denying that things are hard. We validate our experiences as challenging. We are simply trying to make it easier on ourselves. Tell yourself that you are doing your best and look for what hope you can grab onto.
Try ACCEPTS when you are having overwhelming and distressing emotions like anxiety, fear, and depression. Take a break from the situation to gather your thoughts and cool down before making a decision on how to proceed. This skill is used as a distraction coping technique. This does not mean ignoring or denying that there is a problem, just taking a mental break!
A – Activities
Focus attention on a task you need to get done
Rent movies; watch TV
Clean a room in your house
Play computer games
Go for a walk or exercise
Call or video chat a friend
Download and/or listen to music
Spend time with those you’re living with
Read magazines, books, comic
Do crossword puzzles or Sudoku.
Comment more suggestions!
C – Contributions
Find volunteer work to do
Help a friend or family member
Surprise someone with something nice (a card, a favor, a gift, etc.)
Give away things you don’t need
Check in on a friend or loved one
Make something nice for someone else
Do something thoughtful.
What is something you have done or can do this week to help others?
C – Comparisons
Compare how you are feeling now to a time when you felt differently (ie. a week ago, an hour ago, etc.)
Think about people who may be going through something similar, but may have things more difficult (find gratitude in your situation)
What are you grateful or thankful for in your life?
E – Emotions
Choosing an activity that makes you have a different emotion than what you are currently feeling. For example, if you are feeling fearful do not watch a scary movie. Try a comedy instead!
Activities could include:
Reading emotional books or stories, old letters, cards etc. (ie. happy books, funny cards, comic books etc.)
Watch emotional TV show or movies (ie. comedy, romance, scary movie, action, etc.)
Listen to emotional music (ie. motivational, religious, calming, energizing, etc.)
P – Pushing Away
Trying to stay grounded while pushing away stressful thoughts. Sometimes that means putting some thoughts aside for now, so you can address them at another time when you feel calmer and less distressed. Pushing away could look like:
Push the situation away by leaving it for a while
Build an imaginary wall between yourself and the situation
Block thoughts and images from your mind
Notice ruminating thoughts: Yell “No!”
Refuse to think about the painful situations
Put the pain on a shelf. Box it up and put it away for a while
Check out my previous blog about Ground Techniques for more suggestions!
T – Thoughts
Find a way to distract your thoughts
Pick a color and name everything you see in that color.
Name as many animals as you can think of.
S – Sensations
*Find a way to fully immerse yourself in your senses. Examples could include:
Squeeze a rubber ball very hard
Listen to very loud music
Hold ice in your hand or mouth
Go out in the rain or snow
Take a hot or cold shower
In future blogs I will tell you more ways to use your 5 senses to distract yourself from distressing emotions!