5 Helpful Skills for Distress Tolerance When You Live With Borderline Personality Disorder


Distress Tolerance is one of the four major parts of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These skills do exactly what it sounds like — they help you tolerate distress. For people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it is easy to get emotionally overwhelmed. For me, when I get overwhelmed, that’s when I start to go down the rabbit hole. Here are five of my favorite skills to use when I’m in emotional distress.

1. Distract.

For me this means multiple things. I watch television so my brain focuses on that instead of the problem, or I get into a really good book. For my first time of emotional distress, I tried photography, and I came home laughing and lighthearted. Finding something to distract yourself is always a good start when in emotional distress.

2. Self-soothe.

Find something that will calm you down, and use it. I prefer soft blankets and cuddling with my dog. This puts my mind into a safe mode rather than an alert mode and reminds me I’m OK and nothing immediate is going to happen to hurt me. People laugh at my obsession with buying blankets. (If they even knew the half of it!)

3. Radical acceptance. 

I use this one in particular circumstances. My mother has Parkinson’s Disease, and I often get overwhelmed and emotional when discussing or thinking about it and its unfairness to her. However, I have to radically accept this is how it has been for 17 years and how it will be. Rather than getting upset, I work on finding moments to turn to, instead of ruminating on the sad parts.

4. Sensations.

This is a trick I learned in the hospital. When my mind begins to ruminate or I feel the tides crashing into my chest as I start to get overwhelmed, then I take an Atomic Fireball (the candy) and pop it in my mouth. The heat from it immediately pulls my attention away from the rumination and instead focuses on the candy setting my mouth on fire. The first time was tough, but it has worked wonders for me.

5. Prayer.

This might not be for everyone. However, if you do not believe in prayer, then you can try meditation. Prayer works for me because it allows me to feel connected to God, to trust in Him and center myself with thoughts of love and good work. I usually get emotional when I pray, but it’s not the bad type of emotional. I feel so calm that I shed quiet tears because calm is not a feeling I’m used to in my life. Financial troubles are one of the top things that cause my emotional distress overload. Thus, I find it helpful to read specifically Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV) when I feel that my mind is consumed by financial burdens.

Have a wonderful day, triumphers.

Peace, Love & Triumph.

This post originally appeared on She Triumphs.

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