If you frequently find yourself triggered by upsetting situations, it may be time to create a distress tolerance action plan.
What are the treatment goals for distress tolerance? By creating an action plan, we can be more intentional about how we respond to distressing developments and build our distress tolerance. This allows us to have better control over our thoughts, emotions, and reactions.
How do you build distress tolerance? Here are some steps to help you build distress tolerance skills.
1. Make a List of Your Triggers
Your distress tolerance action plan is a list of your internal and external triggers that cause distress. These could be relationships, work issues, mounting domestic chores, a negative self-image, or worries about the past, present, or future.
2. Notice Your Warning Signs
Notice the feelings, thoughts, physical sensations, and urges you feel during distressing situations. Observe how you react to them.
Here are some common warning signs that you need to take heed of:
- Feelings such as disappointment, sadness, depression, anger, rage, frustration, and hatred
- Thoughts of inability to cope, hopelessness, weakness, the need to avoid a situation, and the belief that things won’t get better
- Physical sensations like low or excessive energy, crying, tension, heaviness, increased heart rate, fast breathing, sweating, and restlessness
- Urges or actions such as yelling, social withdrawal, seeking reassurance, throwing things, and self-harm
When you notice any negative thoughts or actions, it’s time to put your action plan to work.
3. Commit Yourself to Avoid Escape Methods
It’s important that you don’t indulge in unhealthy behaviors and instead choose emotionally healthy coping mechanisms.
Have a commitment statement like “I will accept this feeling instead of trying to escape it with alcohol” or “I will not try to escape or isolate myself but rather stay with this feeling.”
4. Accept Your Distress
To process and accept the reasons for your distress, you need to do five things with the help of affirming statements that you repeat to yourself.
Recognize and Give Yourself Permission to Feel Your Negative Emotions
Create and say to yourself statements like: “I will allow myself to experience this emotion. I will not be afraid of it or try to get rid of it.”
Separate Yourself From Your Emotions
Have prepared affirmations such as:
- “I can watch this feeling or emotion, make space for it, and see what it does. I will not get caught up in it.”
- “I am not these emotions. I am only the watcher of these emotions.”
- “I can observe the emotion like a cloud floating past above me in the sky. It will hang around for some time and drift out of sight.”
Remain in the Present
Use mindfulness techniques and memorize what you intend to do. Here’s an example: “I will turn my attention to my breaths.”
Deal With Emotional Setbacks
When negative thoughts or actions return, be ready with memorized lines like: “I feel the emotion returning. It’s fine. It’s what emotions do.”
6. Engage in Distress-relieving Activities
Have a list of relaxing activities or distress tolerance technique that you commit to practicing whenever the situation arises. This could mean going for a walk, baking, listening to music, journaling, and more.
At the same time, encourage yourself by repeating something like, “This feeling will pass” or “I can get through this.”
List possible solutions for your problem and look at their pros and cons. Then, pick one that you think will work the best. Break that solution down into actionable steps, and implement your plan.
7. Implementing Your Plan
Make copies of your action plan and keep them in places where you can easily see them. Review and refine your action plan every time you use it until you find a strategy that works for you.