Coping Skills

Little changes to help your mental health

This is for those times when everything is too much, and you’re desperate for something to make things at least a little better, but you don’t really want to do anything.

Change your language

“stupid” –> “valid”

e.g. “I’m so stupid” –> “I’m so valid”

e.g. “I did something really stupid” –> “I did something really valid”

“always” or “never” –> “sometimes” or “might”

e.g. “I’m never on time” –> “I’m sometimes not on time”

e.g. “Things like this always happen” –> “Things like this sometimes happen”

“should” –> “could”

e.g. “I should have done things differently” –> “I could have done things differently”

e.g. “I should do that” –> “I could do that”

Change what your body’s doing at the moment

breathe in, 2, 3, 4, hold, 2, 3, 4, out, 2, 3, 4, hold, 2, 3, 4, in, 2, 3, 4…

helpful for any unwanted emotion that gets the heart pounding — fear, anger, etc.

do 20 jumping jacks (if you’re able to)

helpful for dissociation, hopelessness, sadness, and shame (or anything that makes you want to curl up) because it can break the inertia and show that you’re a valid person taking up space in the world and doing things

also helpful for any strong emotion that gets your heart pounding because the body associates the heart pounding with the exercise and will calm down from the actual emotion

stand up in a power pose: hands on your hips, biceps flexed, punching the sky, etc. or, while sitting, stretch your arms up to the sky

similarly helpful for things that make you want to curl up (this is opposite action!), but not as intense

Make a list

five things you’re grateful for

e.g. pretty pictures of flowers, living with other people, having headphones, buzzfeed, warmer weather

three recent accomplishments!

e.g. got up! (multiple times!) replied to some old texts! ate brunch with my friend!

the bare minimum of what you’re going to do the rest of today (and/or tomorrow if it’s late at night)

e.g. brush teeth, call my mom, do the assignment for one of my classes

then check them off!

Change your computer/phone/tablet experience

change your background, lock screen, or desktop background

pretty nature? cute puppies? memes?

snow capped mountains under the cloudy skies
Photo by Stephan Seeber on Pexels.com
pomeranian puppy
Photo by Vanserline Vandenberg on Pexels.com

bookmark a site you want to keep handy

something funny? something helpful? something thoughtful?

download an app

in the spirit of trying something new!

 

Congratulations, you made it to the bottom of this post! Look at you go! 🙂

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Affirmations

Affirmation #4 — Self-Validation

(note: mentions of death)

IMG_9332

 

It says:

 

Self-Validation

I have been through a rough time.

I am grieving.

It makes sense that I am sad because there are important people missing from my life.

It makes sense that I am angry because their deaths block my goals of spending more time with them and showing them my love.

It makes sense that I have thoughts like, “I don’t understand why I’m not dead yet,” because with all the people that have died, it has shaken my foundation and made me more likely to believe that anyone can die at any moment. AND, at the same time, the vast majority of people I know have not died, and there is no rational, causal reason that I would have died, either.

It makes sense that I have the thought, “I don’t understand why people are nice to me,” because I have received conflicting messages and amounts of help in the same situations.


I wrote this when I was struggling with the thoughts mentioned above. I was invalidating my feelings and feeling shame, guilt, and anger at myself for thinking these things and reacting this way. I was just making it worse. So, I wrote this rather intentionally to validate myself. Because what I’m feeling and thinking is valid and comes from somewhere, even if I don’t always know where that is.

Coping Skills

The Emotions and Opposite Action

These are the ten primary emotions as I learned them in my DBT treatment program this summer.

Knowing more information about them helps me understand what’s going on inside me and what I need to do to resolve the situation, if anything (see the flowchart under Emotion Regulation in the DBT Skills Summary).

Emotions are important!!

IMG_7373

The picture says:

The Ten Primary Emotions

Fear

  • signal: threat to health and happiness
  • urge: flight, fight, freeze
  • opposite action: approach mindfully

Anger

  • signal: threat to health and happiness
  • urge: defend, attack
  • opposite action: be gentle, take a time out, willing hands

Sadness

  • signal: something is lost or missing
  • urge: replace, isolate, withdraw, ruminate
  • opposite action: activate

Disgust

  • signal: toxic to health and happiness
  • urge: avoid, throw up, get rid of it
  • opposite action: approach mindfully

Guilt

  • signal: I crossed my values
  • urge: repair/fix, hide, avoid, compensate
  • opposite action: don’t apologize, self-validation 

Shame

  • signal: I crossed group values, will be judged or excluded
  • urge: hide, don’t do it again
  • opposite action: reveal, tell, show

Joy

  • signal: good for health and happiness
  • urge: continue to do it
  • opposite action: avoid, focus attention elsewhere

Love

  • signal: relationship is good for health and happiness
  • urge: pursue and maintain, spend time with them
  • opposite action: focus on other goals

Jealousy

  • signal: fear of losing something that matters to someone else
  • urge: protect, control
  • opposite action: trust, give space, don’t stalk

Envy

  • signal: wanting what someone else has while feeling equally entitled 
  • urge: get it (motivation) 
  • opposite action: count your blessings and accomplishments 

What’s this opposite action thing?

Opposite action is a DBT skill I really like and have been using a lot.

Once I’ve identified what emotion I’m feeling and validated myself, I determine whether it’s justified or unjustified and if the emotion is helping me to be effective in this moment.

All emotions are valid. It is what you are feeling, and that’s the way it is. There’s probably a good reason you’re feeling that way, even if the reason no longer applies to this current situation. But an emotion is only justified if the presence, intensity, and duration of the emotion fit the facts. For example, fear is justified when a threat is present. My fear is often caused by reminders of trauma and is often unjustified. Shame is justified when I’ve broken a group’s value. Guilt is justified when I’ve broken a personal value. Sadness is justified when I’ve lost something. Et cetera.

If the emotion is unjustified, then it’s time to use opposite action! Opposite action is doing the opposite of the urge an unjustified emotion is giving me. I’ve been using opposite action a lot for shame. When I feel shame, my urge is to hide. But, if I 1) identify that I am feeling shame and 2) find that it’s unjustified, then I know I need to use opposite action. Instead of hiding my face, getting squirmy, curling up, running away, talking quietly, and not speaking, I do the opposite. I stay where I am. I sit on my hands so that I can’t cover myself up with them. I keep talking about whatever thing I think is “weird” but which really isn’t. I put myself out there. It is very uncomfortable, but it helps the shame go away.

Instead of wallowing in my (unjustified) feelings, I react in a more effective way. Yay opposite action!

Understanding emotions has been really helpful to me.