Recently, we covered Basic Distress Tolerance Skills which serve to identify stressors and strategies, acceptance of the situation with neutrality, and to quick ways to distract ourselves from implosion. Now, we're going to explore advanced strategies.
Create an emergency plan
Rather than re-create the wheel on this one, I'm going to defer to this article on developing a safety plan.
Safe-place visualization is an important strategy when we already begin to feel symptoms of distress. This exercise can be particularly helpful for folks who are still in place where they can marshal their perceptual vision. In short, as you sense your "rationale side" is constricted, check in with yourself to see if you can create a snapshot of a place where you feel nothing but joy and calm. What are the qualities of that space? Sounds? Smells? Textures? What is going on in that immediate space, and how do you imagine yourself interacting in that space? Stay with that space for a little while and occasionally glance into your internal senses. Are you able to take deeper breaths? Is your heart rate regular?
Begin this practice in spaces that are removed of distractions, if possible. Grade it so that you can take this practice on the go.
This practice enables us to pair a verbalized phrase or sound with the goal of relaxing. Simply inhale, verbalize the cue or have it played, Exhale, verbalize the cue or have it played. Examples of cues can be: relax, focus, calm, loose, etc. with the hope that thinking and hearing the cue will translate to bodily integration.
Valued Living Questionnaire (VLQ)
The VLQ is a self-assessment that guides is in evaluating our personal meaning. It allows us to identify and measure those things which add purpose to our life. While this is not the only tool, other meaning-making tools worth consideration include the Ikigai model, the wheel of wellness, and other tools which can help us sense out our proximity to desired well-being. Once these values are ascertained, we can than follow through with a committed action to reach self-driven S.M.A.R.T.* goals
*Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Time-bound
Connect to a higher power and create an activity
Spirituality is an alignment to personal growth which wherein we might endeavor on principles and meaning through a higher dimension. No one person can or should complete this internal work for you, and it's important to recognize that spirituality can be beneficial when it augments your growth and autonomy.
Take a time-out
It might sound self-evident, however, taking a time out to breathe, process, or decompress for five minutes may be the time we need to reach into the toolbag for what practice we need during distressful moments.
Present Moment Exercise
These exercises call for the individual to engage in present-minded thoughts. Where are you now? Are you safe? What are things you notice in your environments? This does not necessitate that you forever dismiss other dimensions of time (past, future, or multi-) but that you take five minutes to check in with the breath and refocus.
Self-encouraging coping thoughts
Positive self-talk might be appropriate in situations that seem dooming but realistically are not, e.g. before an exam, before a presentation, etc.
This feels bad, but it's a normal reaction that will pass.
Stop and breathe.
I can do this.
I can use my coping skills
Right now, I'm not in danger. I'm safe.
It's just that. Right here is where I'm meant to be, and everything is as it should be right now. These statements are enough to get you through the moment so you can re-asses your safety, your needs, your values, and your goals.
Much like self-encouraging coping thoughts, self-affirming statements are much like mantras, prayers, or statements which we turn to when in doubt.
I am enough.
I am growing.
I can do it.
Replace the above phrases with something of more spiritual context and use it as a cue to relaxation, if you so desire.
Identify a few new coping strategies
There's so many strategies out there. Here's a list of more from the website, as of this post:
Basic Distress Skills
Emotional Freedom Technique
Gauging Your Energy Levels
Journaling: Hotspots and Worries
Psychological First Aid