01 Aug Create A Distress Tolerance Coping Kit
Have you, or someone you know, whether that be a child, friend, or relative, experienced stress? Maybe it’s been a little more than stress, maybe it’s anxiety or PTSD. If you have, then you know how those feelings and thoughts can disrupt your life. Although we cannot change what has happened in the past, we can utilize some Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) techniques to manage during hard times.
Let me start by providing you with some education on what Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is. The four components of DBT are; mindfulness, emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. It is very effective for individuals who struggle with emotional reactivity and require a larger array of skills. Asarnow (2015) stated, “DBT is a proven evidenced-based treatment that combines the best of our science with the knowledge and compassion of Marsha Linehan.”
In regard to Emotional Regulation skills, it is important for an individual to learn skills to help them decrease overwhelming emotions in order to regain rationality and to not engage in emotional reactivity. Several Distress Tolerance techniques that will be helpful are; utilizing a frozen orange, deep breathing, or utilizing the five senses.
Now that you have an idea of what Distress Tolerance and Emotional Regulation skills help with, we can figure out how to create a coping kit that will be helpful. Coping kits will look different for every individual, just like therapy, there is not one roadmap that fits everyone. An easy key is to follow the rule of the 5-senses. If you are aware of sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell then you can work towards identifying what specific items will be helpful for you to put in your coping kit.
Rule of 5 Senses
What are items that you can look at that will bring peace, a sense of calm, or even happiness? Is it a picture of family, friends, animals, significant others, or nature? There are many ways that can help us obtain visuals. The app Calm is useful for sights and sounds. It is a free app that provides different scenic views and has a timer built into the app so that you can use it any time while setting a time limit. Another sight sense that is helpful for if you may not have access to your kit is to count the squares in a room. This will regulate you mind and body in a grounding technique so that you can regain the ability to participate in regulating your emotions.
Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is a fan favorite with most of my clients. It is a visual and physical tactile that can be helpful in moments of distress. There are also many other fidgets that can be helpful, such as, stress balls, fidget cubes, puzzle blocks, crystals, and many more. Other forms of touch can include specific materials, weighted blankets, or stuffed animals. Lastly, another form of touch can be showers, lotions (mindfully applying scented lotion), temperature (holding ice), or holding a frozen orange. A frozen orange can bring all of the senses together in one object.
Altoid Mints is a great tool to have in your coping kit to utilize when you are experiencing racing thoughts and cannot appear to calm down. The mint will bring full awareness into what is happening in your mouth; therefore, the mind cannot continue to race while the focus in on the mint. Frozen grapes are helpful for this as well, although that would be more of an at-home part of a coping kit since access is limited outside of the house. Other tastes items can be to an individual’s personal preference, whether that is chocolate, tea, or your favorite snack.
What are sounds that are relaxing, calming, or make you feel good? I previously mentioned the app Calm and its ability to have scenic views with accompanying sounds. Other sounds can be specific music that is calming, as well as podcast or audiobooks. The goal of identifying helpful sounds is so that you can utilize them in moments to help regulate your emotions and decrease stress.
Are there certain smells that make you feel good or are calming? A lot of my clients enjoy the scent of lavender. Lavender can come in lotions, mists, oil rollers, or as oil used in diffusers. Being able to have access to a scent like lavender can increase relaxation. Other smells can come from chap stick, food, perfume/cologne, fabric softeners, books, or even the scent of your favorite animal, just to name a few.
Now that you have a better understand of items to include in a coping kit, take the time to explore what your kit can look like, and get creative on ways to help yourself relax and ground yourself!
Feeling some stress you’re having a hard time getting under control? Have more questions about DBT or Coping Kits? Feel free to contact us to schedule an appointment.
Courtney specializes in working with children, adolescents, young adults, and families. She also has extensive experience working with clients who struggle with depression, anxiety, self-harm, self-esteem, mood disorders, eating disorders, gender issues, grief, and complex and relational trauma. Courtney utilizes DBT techniques for clients who require extra attention on regulating their mood, strengthening relationships, and utilizing relaxation and mindfulness techniques during moments of distress.