Feeling emotions is an unavoidable experience of life. Feelings are neither good nor bad, true or false, they just are. However, for some people, the Emotions they experience can be overwhelming and at times debilitating. When people struggle with intense, consuming emotions it negatively affects their overall quality of life.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teaches four essential skills to tolerate, minimize, and manage overwhelming emotions before they overpower you. Mastering these skills and incorporating them into your daily life will improve your encounters with distressing situations and emotions and strengthen your relationships.

1. Mindfulness

The cornerstone of the four key skills of DBT is Mindfulness. To be mindful is to take control of your thoughts and of your attention. When a person lives mindfully they focus their attention on the present moment without judging it. As a result, they can live in the moment and fully experience their senses and emotions while keeping the entire situation in perspective. Being mindful helps people accept and tolerate the distressing emotions they could potentially experience as a result of challenging their ineffective behavioral habits or being exposed to uncomfortable situations.

Mindfulness consists of 'what' and 'how' skills, which can help you take control of your mind when used correctly and at the same time.

'What' Skills -To begin, observe your feelings. Try to remain objective as you do so. Approach your feelings with curiosity. Notice and observe what, how, and for how long you feel without attempting to alter the feelings or judge them.

Go a little deeper by attempting to put words to the feelings you observed.

Avoid judgment statements and rely on words that factually describe your experience. Don't use emotional words or focus on your emotions being 'true' or 'right.'

Finally, participate and fully engage yourself in an activity you are doing. Allow yourself to feel untethered to time and to be authenticly vulnerable to the experience.

'How' Skills - Give the 'what' your full attention and neutrally describe the facts.

Put your opinions to the side and purposefully observe from a position of nonjudgment. Accept and acknowledge the good nonjudgmentally. Nonjudgmentally accept and acknowledge the bad. If you catch yourself making judgments, accept and acknowledge that nonjudgmentally as well.

Mindfully exist in the moment. Place all of your attention and focus on one thing, one moment at a time. If distractions arise release them and redirect your focus to one thing and one moment. Concentrate all of your energy on training your mind to pay attention to one thing at a time.

Use these skills in a manner that proves to be effective for you.

Do what needs to be done with as much skill as you can in each situation you find yourself in to meet your larger goals. If something doesn't work for you simply let it go.

2. Distress tolerance

The ability to tolerate distress teaches you to gracefully endure pain. It allows you to accept both yourself and your situation without evaluating or judging either one. When you can successfully tolerate distress you gain the power to calmly recognize negative situations and their effect without becoming so overwhelmed by them that you experience the desire to hide.

Distress tolerance can be achieved in numerous ways.

You can temporarily distract yourself from the unpleasant emotions you are experiencing. Soothe yourself by treating yourself in a comforting, nurturing, kind, compassionate, and gentle way. Purposefully relax in the midst of distressful situations to improve the moment or take a short break from the situation entirely.

Don't forget to encourage yourself to persevere and to cope. Take a moment to evaluate the positive and negative aspects of failing to tolerate distress. Rather than denying reality, radically accept the situation as it is. Understand the difference between being willing and being willful.

Choose to be open and willing to do what's effective and let go of the wilful attitude that prevents acceptance.

3. Emotional regulation

There are a number of skills required to gain the ability to effectively regulate your emotions. Most importantly, you must be able to identify and label the emotions you are experiencing. One method of understanding the type of emotion being felt is to tell that emotion's story. Identify the event that prompted the emotion and then determine your interpretation of the event. Note the body sensations that accompanied the emotion and the body language you displayed in response to what you were feeling.

Describe the actions you had the urge to take and then identify the action you actually took. Once you have taken all of this information into consideration you should be able to name the emotion you were experiencing.

Now you can determine the obstacles to changing the emotion. These two skills will reduce your vulnerability to your emotional mind. Once you can identify your emotions, begin to increase your mindfulness to your current emotions. Keep in mind, this requires you to refrain from judgment.

Being mindful of your emotions will allow you to view them from a neutral perspective. This will help you to determine whether or not your emotional response to a situation is justifiable.

If it isn't, do the opposite of the actions your emotions are giving you the urge to do. If your emotional response is justifiable use your distress tolerance skills to persevere.

In order to truly be able to regulate your emotions, you must be willing to let go of emotional suffering. This doesn't mean you ignore it or avoid feeling it altogether. Instead, notice and experience your emotions, nonjudgmentally accept them, and them simply let them go.

4. Interpersonal effectiveness

Protecting your relationships and treating others with respect shouldn't come with the cost of not being able to express your own needs or beliefs, establish boundaries, or negotiate solutions to problems.

The skill of interpersonal effectiveness will provide you with tools and techniques for asking for what you need, saying no, and coping with interpersonal conflict. Using these strategies will maximize the chances of your goal being met while avoiding damage to both the relationship or the other person's self-respect.

The difference between getting something you want and not getting it often comes down to the manner in which you ask. Generally, the best way to open the conversation is to describe your situation by expressing the issue you are experiencing and how you feel about it. Then you can assertively and clearly ask for what you want.

Strengthen your position by giving some of the positive consequences that would occur as a result of you getting what you want. Throughout the duration of the conversation remain mindful of the situation. Maintain your focus on what you want and display confidence regardless of how you feel. If the person you're engaging in conversation with appears hesitant, be willing to negotiate and come to a compromise both of you are comfortable with.

Improving and maintaining your relationships takes work and you have to be willing to take actions to contribute to the relationship. Have a gentle spirit by avoiding confrontational and judgmental language.

Monitor your mannerisms by remaining calm and comfortable during conversations. Demonstrate your interest in the relationship. Actively listen and show you are interested in what is being said by doing things such as asking questions and maintaining eye contact. Always try to be understanding and empathetic to the other person's situation to validate their experiences.

A relationship involves two people and both are equally important. Maintain balance by ensuring you treat yourself with respect. Be just as fair to yourself as you are to the other person. If you are in the wrong, apologize; but, don't disempower yourself by overdoing it.

Remain true to your values and beliefs and stand by them. Always tell the truth, whether it's to the other person or to yourself.

Practicing and incorporating DBT into your everyday life has proven to provide many benefits. It not only decreases suicidality and self-harm behaviors, but it also decreases any other behaviors that are negatively affecting your quality of life. This includes behaviors that may be interfering with therapy. It provides you with behavioral skills, which permit you to make life choices independently of your mood. Utilizing DBT skills decreases trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression-related symptoms. Practicing DBT in general enhances and sustains your self-respect. Overall DBT assists you in creating a fulfilling life worth living.

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