Build Mastery and Cope Ahead

#22: Build Mastery and Cope Ahead

In today’s episode, Marielle and Ed discuss the emotion regulation skills of Build Mastery and Cope Ahead. These are future-oriented skills that involve some planning to carry out.

Build Mastery is a way to strengthen your sense of competence by doing small, regular things that are challenging. Over time, this skill will help you stretch yourself and believe in your capability to accomplish hard things which in turn, will increase your emotional resiliency.  This skill also helps you avoid a common mistake when trying to learn a new skill or do something hard: setting your sights too high and then giving up in defeat. Instead, Build Mastery helps you make small, incremental changes that are stretch you out of your comfort zone but aren’t impossible. You’ll find that the skill of Build Mastery will help you increase your sense of self-worth, self-efficacy, and pride in what you can achieve. 

Cope Ahead is a skill that walks you through a process of planning for stressful situations ahead of time. This is a good skill to use when you anticipate that you will be in a situation that will bring up strong painful emotions and/or you might feel like engaging in a behavior you are trying to stop. Part of why this skill can be so helpful is that it asks you to make a coping plan ahead of time, step by step, and then visualize coping well with the situation.

Show Highlights:

  • Build Mastery is about doing small, challenging things on a regular basis 
  • Build Mastery helps you feel more confident, more competent, and more in control of the direction you want your life to go
  • Often people run into trouble with Build Mastery by setting goals too high or doing too much at once and then giving up
  • Steadily working towards a goal builds a positive sense of self
  • The key to building mastery is challenging yourself – finding the sweet spot – doing what’s a stretch for yourself but not too much of a stretch that you can’t do it
  • Increase the difficulty slowly, over time
  • Be careful about comparing yourself to someone else as we all have different things that challenge us
  • Ask: What’s reasonable and realistic for me?
  • Appreciate yourself for whatever efforts you do make
  • Cope Ahead is a great skill use when you anticipate that you might be tempted to engage in behavior that you are trying not to
  • The first step of Cope Ahead is to describe the situation that might be challenging to you and the emotions or action that may be a problem for you
  • Be specific about what coping skills you will use to help you get through
  • Actually imagine yourself in the situation coping well so you’re mentally rehearsing coping effectively 
  • Practice relaxing after visulalizing the stressful situation 

Links & Resources

DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition

SUDs (Subjective Units of Distress) scale

Ask us a Question

We’d love to hear from you! Where are you getting stuck with your skills application? Ask us a question for the chance to have it answered on the podcast. Submit your question here. 

Please note that questions, and this podcast in general, are not a substitute for individual mental health treatment.