#24: Coping With COVID-19 [Part 1]

#24: Coping With COVID-19 [Part 1]

In today’s episode, Marielle and Ed explore skills to help you cope with your emotions as we collectively face a pandemic. Many of you may be feeling intense distress on a regular basis during these uncertain times. DBT offers lots of skills to help manage strong, painful emotions like fear and panic.

Different ways of thinking about your distress levels are discussed, including the Subjective Units of Distress Scale and the Window of Tolerance.  Stopping regularly throughout your day to check in with your distress level and naming your emotion can be a helpful first step in helping you feel more centered.

The Distress Tolerance skill of TIPP is discussed, as is Contributing and Self-Soothing. TIPP, in particular, is helpful in calming an over-activated nervous system.

Show Highlights:

  • Our nervous system is always trying to operate within a window of tolerance
  • Hyperarousal: fight/flight response where you are activated to move
  • Hypoarousal: freeze response where you are numbed out and bracing yourself
  • Our nervous system is built to find a threat and deal with it
  • The threat of COVID-19 means there is not a lot to do right now for many people, other than isolation.
  • Checking into what you’re feeling, allowing it
  • If you feel emotions strongly, you may be feeling things even more deeply than others during this time
  • TIPP skills help change your physical response to emotional distress
  • Dunking your head in a bowl of cold water can really help!
  • Intense exercise to get your heart rate up so your body has to work to bring your heart rate down which is calming
  • Paced Breathing: inhaling to a count of 5 and exhaling to count to 7
  • The exhale activates the part of your nervous system that relaxes your body
  • Paired muscle relaxation is tensing individual muscles as you breathe in and relaxing your muscles as you breathe out
  • Self-soothing is about using your senses in whatever way is pleasing to you: smell, taste, hear, touch
  • Contributing is helping out others in need: donations if you can, helping out others, reaching out to people
  • The dialectic approach – walking the middle path between extremes, between the extremes of panic on one side and denial on the other
  • Noticing if you’re being pulled toward one direction or another
  • Radical acceptance that we are in a moment of great uncertainty 
  • Ask yourself: What am I doing right now? What do I need right now?

Links & Resources

DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition

SUDs (Subjective Units of Distress) scale

The Skillful Podcast Episode #10: The TIPP Skill: Using Your Body to Calm Down

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.