How DBT Skills Help With Everyday Stressors

No matter who you are, the reality is that you will eventually deal with stress of some kind. This is a simple fact of human existence. Jobs, children, relationships, health, driving, you name it - everyone will experience stress.

Unmanaged stress can increase your risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimers’s, depression, GI problems, diabetes, and asthma, along with chronic physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, and insomnia. 

When looking to manage stress, it’s important to recognize that there is no way to live life stress-free, but rather there are better ways to mitigate the impact stress can have on your emotions, along with its duration. 

DBT for Stress Management

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a unique version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that was created by Marsha Linehan to target Borderline Personality Disorder. However, it has since been adapted successfully for the treatment of a wide variety of other conditions, including but not limited to: anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, disordered eating, PTSD, and more. Many components of DBT make it extremely effective in managing stress. 

DBT has four specific modules: 

  • Mindfulness: learning to be fully aware and present in the moment. 
  • Distress Tolerance: discovering how to tolerate emotional pain in difficult situations, rather than fight it. 
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: learning how to ask for what you want and establish boundaries while maintaining self-respect and healthy relationships with others. 
  • Emotion Regulation: discovering how to decrease susceptibility to painful emotions and purposefully change emotions that don’t serve you. 

Each of the DBT modules has specific, applicable skills to help you mitigate stress in your daily life. Here’s how.

Mindfulness for Stress Management

Mindfulness is a core skill that helps you be present in the moment, without judging your situation or yourself. This skill requires using each of your senses to improve your awareness of your feelings, your environment, and your situation. Greater awareness helps you to determine how to cope and can decrease your distress. Mindfulness exercises include various forms of meditation, body scanning, and other tools that help ground you in the present and decrease stress around future or uncontrollable events.

Distress Tolerance for Stress Management

This DBT skill helps you cope with stress by teaching you to recognize and respond to distressful situations and relationships without escalation. Similar to mindfulness, distress tolerance teaches first the ability to accept your current situation/distress, and then how to change it for the better. In most cases, our reactions to distress include being easily overwhelmed by our emotions, becoming reactive or sensitive, and finding it difficult to re-establish a sense of peace and calm. Distress Tolerance skills help you get through distress without falling prey to harmful urges, coping mechanisms, or escalation. 

Interpersonal Effectiveness for Stress Management

Conflict is a natural (but stressful) part of all relationships. The Interpersonal Effectiveness module of DBT helps you to hone skills that allow you to focus on relationships and assert your need for self-respect when necessary. This skill set helps you ask for what you need, clarify what you don’t, and overall set healthy boundaries that decrease the stress of conflict and interpersonal tension. 

Emotional Regulation for Stress Management

Learning to acknowledge and regulate your emotions can make a powerful difference in your ability to feel in control and safe, even in the midst of stressful situations.The emotional regulation module of DBT teaches you how to do just that, in order to decrease your overall stress and the vulnerability of being controlled by your emotions.

Stress can cause significant wear and tear on your physical and emotional wellbeing. You deserve to feel in control and to learn how to decrease stress, every day. DBT can help. 


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