Wasn’t actually planning on posting this post until next Monday because I had another post planned for tomorrow, but tomorrow’s post has been postponed or possibly cancelled, depending on whether I can ever get it to sound the way I want.
So, instead of just saying “forget it” and not posting a blog post at all this week, I’ve decided now is the perfect time to start this series I’ve been wanting to do for a while.
First of all, for the sake of those uninterested in my own personal updates, I will talk about a coping skill that I’ve found helpful, and then I’ll talk about what the heck has been up with me at the bottom so you can just skip the “boring” stuff.
So, I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was about 15 or 16, I think. I’ve tried talk-therapy, religious therapy, medication, no medication, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), that I can remember. I am NOT a mental health professional in any way, and I would always advise seeing a professional if you need help, but I still want to share a few things I’ve learned.
My favourite form of therapy has to be DBT, but I have definitely gleaned a good amount of information from other forms of therapy.
The skill I want to talk to you about today is the STOP skill from DBT.
The STOP skill is especially helpful in crisis situations, but can be used in other situations as well.
It’s an acronym that stands for:
S – Stop! You’re probably experiencing a strong or “hot” emotion right now, but do not react to that emotion. This is hard, but it’s important. Reacting to strong emotions often leads to regrets, fights, or sometimes damage or harm to ourselves.
T – Take a step back. When possible, remove yourself from the situation entirely for a while. Take some deep breaths at the very least. It’s best if you can take some time to really cool down, but this isn’t always possible. We’ll be discussing distraction techniques in an upcoming post*, though, in the event that you do get the chance to take a break from the situation. The main goal here is still NOT reacting to your strong emotions until you’ve “cooled down” a bit and can return to it with a “wise mind”.
DBT teaches us that there are three mindsets to be in.
These are emotional mind, reasonable or logical mind, and wise mind.
Emotional mind is often the easiest mindset to slip into. It’s where our emotions take control of our actions and thoughts, and can cause us to act impulsively.
Reasonable or “logical” mind is where we approach a situation completely with our intellect and fact. This may sound like a good way to approach things, but we can come across as cold or unfeeling this way.
Wise mind is the mindset where we try to see both the emotional side and the reasonable or “logical” side, and find the course of action that fits both sides, if there is one.
O – Observe. Take a second to notice your surroundings, and how your body feels, and finally your emotions. The trick is to just notice these things and try to let them go. This isn’t always possible, but noticing is the first step. I’ll talk more about that in another post as well.
P – Proceed mindfully. Think about your desired outcome in the situation, and take the necessary steps with a new awareness. What can you do to make the situation better, and what actions should you avoid that will make the situation worse?
And that’s it! This skill is to hopefully help stop us from making bad decisions.
*As much as I’d love to discuss distraction tips and what they call “non-judgemental stance” in this post, I feel like I’m already rambling too much, and I want to keep these Monday posts as “bite sized” and easy to digest as possible.
And now quick update on my own personal mental health, because as mentioned, I’ve already rambled too much!
I was diagnosed three or so years ago with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and have tried a bunch of medications, and honestly, I just seemed to be getting worse. I was in and out of the hospital, increased intensity of my manic and depressed episodes, and more. So I recently changed doctors and wouldn’t you know it? I have bipolar disorder!
It was scary as all get out to get a new diagnosis after adjusting to my old diagnosis and learning to “cope” with BPD, but ultimately I think it’s probably a good thing because now I can try proper medication and get proper therapy. It’s been a long, hard road. But for the first time in forever I’m starting to feel like maybe I can get better.
It was so frustrating to be working so hard at getting better and not getting anywhere, but now I understand why.
It’s too soon to know if the new meds are working, but I am optimistic.
Thanks for reading.
As always, and especially in times like these, take care of yourselves and your loved ones, friends!