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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Borderline Personality Disorder

A man holding up a mirror over his face ,which reflects the sky

When the Borderline Personality Disorder Monster Takes Over

I woke up today with a yearning in my heart to be better. For so long I have battled who I am and who I choose to be. For so long, I’ve watched the tears fall from my eyes while looking in the mirror trying to remember who I am. The problem is, I haven’t [...]
finger between womans lips with shhh... written on the side

5 Secrets I've Never Told My Friends About My Borderline Personality Disorder

Living with a mental health condition can mean keeping a lot of secrets. Not necessarily because you want to keep them, but I’ve generally found people often don’t want to know about what they don’t understand — what is not perceived as “normal” behavior. Try, for example, answering someone who asks how you are with “I am [...]
woman sitting at a table and looking down at her smartphone

The Worst Thing Friends Can Say to Me as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

What do I think is the worst thing you can say to someone who struggles with borderline personality disorder (BPD)? Nothing at all. Let me clarify: Say we’ve been having an argument. You may think it would be best to just go to sleep and leave things to cool off until morning. So you roll over in [...]
a woman wearing a hospital gown standing in shadows

On a '5150' Hold in the Psych Ward

I didn’t know what “crazy” looked like until right now. I’m watching myself have a nervous breakdown, half-naked, in front of a mix of friends and strangers. This isn’t good. I’m crying and writhing around on a bed. I’m screaming and hitting myself. My fists are balled up, white with fury. I’m holding onto pills, [...]