Mental Health Monday #3 — A Few DBT Skills (TIPP & cold water)

Hiya friends! Welcome to third instalment of my mental health Monday series.

To be honest, I nearly forgot about this handy little acronym, though it’s one of the first skills I learned in DBT! The TIPP skill is great because it’s about basically tricking your body, which tricks your brain. Both TIPP and the Cold Water skill are great for when you’re experiencing extreme and potentially dangerous or harmful emotions that you need to change such as anxiety or anger.

T – Temperature

I – Intense exercise

P – Paced breathing

P – Paired Muscle Relaxation

Temperature. The idea here is to cool your body down. Take a super cold shower. Put an ice pack over your eyes and cheeks. Put your face in a bowl of ice water (another skill I’ll discuss at the end of this post!)

Intense exercise. Exactly as it sounds. When we experience strong emotions, our bodies create excess physical energy, that can lead us to being impulsive or doing something harmful. So, go for a run! Walk on the treadmill at a brisk pace. Lift weights. Do Zumba. Make sure you get your heart rate going and work up some sweat!

Paced breathing. Take big, deep breaths in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth for even longer periods. I learned a technique a few years ago called the 4-7-8 method for breathing. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds (make sure to count your Mississippi’s!), hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds through your mouth. Do this 3-5 times until you feel calmer. 

The paces breathing especially is honestly a God send for anxiety, but works well for anger and sadness as well. Probably other things too.

Takes some practice, but I would highly recommend it!

Paired muscle relaxation. Breathe in and tense the muscles in your body, notice how that makes you feel. Then, when you breathe out, relax all that tension, and notice how you feel when you aren’t all tensed up. I recommend starting with “easy” muscles like hands, legs, toes, shoulders, etc.

For the cold water skill, it doesn’t actually have to be ice water, but make sure it’s cold. Hold your face in a bowl or sink full of cold water for somewhere between 15-30 seconds.

Scientists say that this triggers a response in your brain called the “dive response”. 

It tricks our brains into thinking that we’re actually quite literally diving under water, so to compensate, our brains will send signals to our heart to slow down a bit. Blood flow to our extremities get slowed way down, and instead the blood gets redirected to more “vital” parts of us, such as the brain and heart. 

Alrighty, friends! That’s all I have for today.

Like I mentioned last week, I’m on new meds again and I’m so tired, so writing is a bit harder than usual but I’m trying to stick with it.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have, but keep in mind, I’m not a medical professional, and I’m still learning myself.

Keep your chin up.

As always, and especially in times like these, take care of yourselves and your loved ones, friends!

Paige

Mental Health Monday #1 – A Personal Update & A Coping Skill (DBT // STOP! Skill)

Hello friends!

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!

Paige