#48: Emotion Regulation Overview Part 2

This episode is the 2nd part of an overview of the Emotion Regulation skills in DBT, focusing on skills that can help you be in Emotion Mind less often. You can find part 1 here

The skills discussed in this episode may not have an immediate impact on how you’re feeling, but regular application of these skills over time builds emotional resilience and flexibility.

Show Highlights

  • Combat emotional depletion by doing nice things for yourself
  • Be mindful and let go of worries when doing your pleasant events
  • Think about what gives you pleasure, joy, or contentment
  • Remember that you are worth taking care of
  • Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Long-Term is about creating a life that reflects what is most important to you
  • Identify your values first, then identify goals related to your values
  • Pick one value to work on at a time
  • Would this value still be important if no one knew about it?
  • Our values shift over time with different phases of life
  • Not waiting to attend to life goals until a later time
  • Do things that gradually stretch your abilities to Build Mastery
  • Build Mastery helps build self-confidence and self-respect
  • Use Cope Ahead to plan in advance with how to deal with difficult situations
  • Be specific about what skills you will use to cope
  • Vividly imagine coping well with difficult situations
  • If the thing I fear most happens, how will I cope?
  • The PLEASE skill is focused on taking care of your body to take care of your emotions
  • Often trauma survivors try to ignore their bodily sensations
  • Attending to physical health can have a big impact on your ability to handle emotions

DBT Skills Discussed

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#48: Emotion Regulation Overview Part 2 Transcript

Marielle Berg 

Hello and welcome to The Skillful Podcast where we explore DBT and RO-DBT skills to help you reduce emotional suffering, improve your relationships, and become more present in your life. I’m your host, Marielle Berg, a psychotherapist at the Bay Area DBT and Couples Counseling Center.

Marielle Berg 

Welcome Ed,

Ed Fowler 

Hi.

Marielle Berg 

Alright, so today we are going to do Emotion Regulation Overview, Part Two. So we’ve already recorded and aired our Part One overview, which was a whole focus on the change oriented skills in our Emotion Regulation skill set in DBT.

Marielle Berg 

I don’t know if you want to quickly list them Ed?

Ed Fowler 

Oh, is this a quiz?

Marielle Berg 

This is. Yes, actually. Forgot to tell you.

Ed Fowler 

Which, of course, then that means that I’m going to forget, but I’m pretty sure I got this one. So the the three change oriented Emotion Regulation skills are Check the Facts, Opposite Action and Problem Solving.

Marielle Berg 

Right. And I actually recall from our last recording that I did forget problem solving. So there, it happens.

Ed Fowler 

It does.

Marielle Berg 

So we use these skills when we have emotions that we want to change. And then in the Emotion Regulation module, we also have several skills that are much more about making us less susceptible to being in Emotion Mind or high distress state in the first place.

Ed Fowler 

Yes, it’s nice to have a bunch of skills to build up our emotional bandwidth, so that when difficult things happen, we’re not so susceptible to getting emotionally overwhelmed, we have more ability to withstand the ups and downs of life. And there are a bunch of skills that can be so helpful in building that emotional resilience.

Marielle Berg 

Most of these skills don’t change things quickly, in the same way that say for example, a Check the Facts, or an Opposite Action can. So if you are in high distress, and you do Check the Facts, and you realize that your emotion or its intensity doesn’t fit the facts, that can change your emotion or shift it pretty quickly.

Marielle Berg 

Most of the skills that we’re going to be talking about today are more like a slow drip. I don’t know if that’s the best way to talk about it, maybe a better way is to think about building a muscle. That there’s, it’s with the regular application of these skills, you will get stronger and more emotionally resilient and have more bounce back when hard things happen.

Ed Fowler 

Where I think another metaphor might be like a daily multivitamin. So that you’re you’re getting the benefit, the longer you take it, the more the vitamin is built up in your system, so that if something comes along, you’re you’re less likely to have difficulties. And we have the same thing with these skills in Emotion Regulation, that help us just if we do them a little bit every day, ideally, but on a very regular basis, we do feel more emotional flexibility.

Marielle Berg 

And I think it can be really relieving for folks to hear that there actually are ways to help you feel more emotionally resilient, and less kind of at the whim of whatever your emotion is, or feeling really upset or overwhelmed or anxious or wherever you go.

Ed Fowler 

And what I like about these skills is unlike the change oriented Emotion Regulation skills, which we use when we are already having an emotion we don’t want or the entire Distress Tolerance skill set, which is all about skills to bring our distress down when we’re already distressed. The skills we’re going to talk about today are skills to avoid those other situations, skills that won’t completely avoid emotional difficulties, but just really make it easier to handle. And so they’re more proactive skills instead of reactive skills.

Marielle Berg 

And so the first one is called Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Short Term. We also have an Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Long Term, which we will talk about next. So we’ll start with the short term first.

Marielle Berg 

And all this is, is, I mean I shouldn’t say all this is maybe that reflects some of my bias and I –

Ed Fowler 

There it is!

Marielle Berg 

There it is. And I’ve shared this with you Ed, I know we did a whole episode on this probably a while back and I’ll try to link to that in the show notes. But I was skeptical of the skill initially, I think in large part because it’s a skill I really need, and one I think I still struggle with. So I don’t want to say all it is. What it is, or what the skill is about, is about doing nice things for yourself on a regular basis. I mean, there’s more to it. But that’s, that’s it in a nutshell, which can be surprisingly hard for some people.

Ed Fowler 

And I do think that this is, like, just the focus on doing something nice for yourself on a daily or near daily basis, really does bump up against our myths about emotions and managing emotions and about ourselves and how we should be. And I think the thing that comes up the most around this skill is that like, Oh, this is too easy, I don’t need this one, I need to be a hard worker. And so this one is kind of not a good use of my time.

Ed Fowler 

But really, the point of accumulating positive emotions is that if we are doing positive things for ourselves, things that feel pleasant, on a very regular basis, we’re going to feel a little bit better as a result of that. And the more often we do it, and the longer we do it, the more of that feeling better is accumulating. And if we don’t accumulate positive emotions, we tend to get stressed more easily, we’re more depleted, we’re feeling like we’re just going going going. And so not using the skill also has an opposite negative impact.

Marielle Berg 

I think part of the skill for skeptics or a way to kind of get over one skepticism, and again, I’m including myself in that is to have faith. That like doing nice things for yourself, on the first day you do it, you decide, okay, I really enjoy whatever it is, you know, a hot cup of tea while I look out the window, at the greenery or the birds or something in nature, whatever you might see. And it could be, you know, a whole list for everyone, it would vary what that might be.

Marielle Berg 

In the moment, it may not make much of a difference. It’s like, okay, that’s enjoyable, especially if you can be mindful and kind of let go of worries and be present with it. But it’s really in the accumulating, in the kind of doing those sorts of things daily, and that’s where the faith piece comes in, you kind of have to trust that this, over time, this is going to make me stronger emotionally. It’s going to serve as a buffer, it’s going to serve as protection, when something really rough happens, or when you just have a bad day.

Ed Fowler 

And I think doing Accumulating Positive Emotions, trying to, which is as simple as just thinking about what gives you pleasure, and doing that. And not necessarily huge things. Because I think sometimes when we talk about this in group, people are like, oh, I need to go on a big vacation in order to Accumulate Positive Emotions. But again, if this is going to be a slow and steady accumulation, smaller things are going to be more effective and more, easier to access.

Ed Fowler 

And by doing these little things, we are ensuring that we’re in the mindset of doing positive things for ourselves, we’re ensuring that we are able to do things that give us joy. Because again, so often, when our emotions are strong, I can’t think about anything else, I just have to deal with this horror that I’m dealing with whatever it is, and all the emotions that go with it. And accumulating positive emotions just gives us that little bit of something positive to strike more balance that does build up over time.

Ed Fowler 

Again, it also requires sometimes Opposite Action. So often people are like, I don’t really believe in this one. I don’t think it’s going to work. I don’t get it. It’s in DBT for a reason. This is proven very effective for 1000s and hundreds of 1000s of people. I don’t know how many people have used DBT skills. But that this is something that people have learned, it actually does work. And so doing some Opposite Action and doing the pleasant things anyway, very often when we go over this in group, people find oh, I actually did notice a benefit.

Marielle Berg 

And this skill is intentionally asking folks to seek pleasure, to seek joy, as you said a minute ago, to seek fun, comfort, all things that you know, might sound lovely on their face, but can be challenging for a lot of people. I think especially for trauma survivors, who may have learned that they’re not really worth taking care of that way.

Marielle Berg 

And I think of the skill is having a fair amount of overlap with Self Soothing, which is essentially using your five senses, to soothe yourself when your distress levels are high. And of course, many of the pleasant events you might choose to do, will involve your senses. So what you see what you taste, what you touch, what you hear, and what you feel. So there’s all sorts of lovely ways that one could use your senses to Accumulate Positive Emotions in the short term.

Marielle Berg 

But it’s really sending a message to yourself on some level that you’re worth taking care of, and being gentle with, and that it’s okay to have pleasure and joy and fun in your life.

Ed Fowler 

And the basics of practicing this skill are to number one, identify activities that give you joy, or feel pleasant. And when we go over this in the skills handouts and worksheets book in group, the activity has like 200 some odd possibilities for pleasant events, that you can go through and check off which ones you like. So there’s limitless options of identifying some things, multiple things, not just one, that give you joy, and then doing those things on a regular basis, ideally, daily. And being mindful of the positiveness of it. So really being in that positive experience and not distracted, and also being unmindful of worries. So putting your worries to the side while you’re doing the pleasant activity.

Marielle Berg 

And sometimes the worry can be around when it’s going to end. And you have to go back to work or do a chore, kind of thing. So seeing if you can just put that aside and be in the moment. And you might have to, there isn’t like a pass or fail with this. It’s you know, even if your mind wanders a bunch of times while you’re doing your pleasant event, even if you can bring it back just a couple times to the moment that will strengthen your ability to be to be focused and to be mindful on your pleasurable events.

Marielle Berg 

You want to think about participating and fully engaging in each experience that you choose. And if you need to, as you said before, Ed practicing Opposite Action. So thinking about avoiding avoiding. So you, if you tend to avoid, thinking about how to avoid avoiding. So don’t do it later, maybe do your pleasant event early in the day, so it doesn’t get pushed aside.

Ed Fowler 

So when we think about Accumulating Positive Emotions, we think about these short term things, little things you can do on a regular basis to build a sense of pleasantness in your life. We also think about Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Long Term, which is more about being attentive to your long term goals, your long term desires, what you want your life to be, in DBT terminology creating the life worth living.

Ed Fowler 

And so Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Long Term is about being attentive to the bigger picture of what’s important to you, and are you working towards that. So you have a sense of direction in your life, and that you’re able to create that life that you want, and putting effort into that.

Marielle Berg 

And often we might find ourselves living lives that we haven’t consciously chosen. Maybe we’re following a path that was just sort of laid out for us, again, speaking metaphorically here, that this is the kind of life you should live. Have this kind of job or do this kind of work or this kind of a family life or social structure and the intentionality isn’t there. And then we wonder why we’re unhappy. And so the Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Long Term guide you to be thoughtful and intentional about how you structure your life.

Ed Fowler 

So on a practical level, the way that we practice Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Long Term is to start with, as Marielle said about the short term, avoid avoiding. So if you are putting off thinking about your long term goals or your desires, or what kind of life you want to lead, don’t avoid that. Like spend some time engaging that. So do this.

Ed Fowler 

And then the next step is to identify what values are important to you. Reflect on your values, and there’s limitless options of what values might be your priorities, and they’re going to be different for each of us. But spending some time reflecting on what are the values that really do animate my life. What values do I prioritize over others? What are the values I really want to make sure are a part of my life? as your guide for the life worth living.

Marielle Berg 

And then this is the place where I think folks can get stuck because it can feel overwhelming. And it can be hard to know where to begin. So in our groups, we have a list that’s very helpful, that you know, working off the DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets book, which we will definitely be linking to in the show notes, and we do that often. And so that’s a good place to start. You can also if you don’t have that book, you can just probably Google, you know, common life values and see what comes up because it can be helpful to have them spelled out. And so you can begin to think about what matters to you.

Marielle Berg 

And, and going back to how, how you do this on a practical level, and step by step once you about identify the values that are really important to you, you want to identify one value to work on. So you want to take this bigger picture and begin to narrow it down. And that’s where I feel like the skill is so helpful in taking some really big ideas, like okay, maybe you value spirituality or creativity, and narrowing it down and helping you hone in on okay, if that matters to me, how can I begin to bring this value into my life? And so identifying a value to work on and then thinking about some goals related to that value. And so you can ask yourself, what specific goals can I work on, that will make this value a part of my life?

Ed Fowler 

Yeah. What are the things I would need to be doing in order to make this value a part of my life? So for instance, if your value that you’ve identified as the one you want to start focusing on now is building a more of a sense of spirituality, then what are some goals that would make spirituality more a part of your life? So you come up with some ideas of like, get involved with a faith community, get more connected to nature, read things, listen to spiritual music, there’s any number of things that you might do as a way to get towards having spirituality is more a part of your life.

Ed Fowler 

And again, these are goals, these are values that are important to you. And one of the questions that we will ask is, would this value still be important if no one knew? If you’re the only one that knew that you were focusing on this value would it still be important? Because sometimes we will find like, oh, that value is important to me, because I know it’s important to these other people in my life, or I should have that value as important. And really checking to see, is this important to me, even if no one else knew would I still value this, okay, now I’m going to pick this value to focus on and what are a few concrete things that would move me in that direction, and then from those goals, pick one goal to focus on and identify some action steps towards that goal.

Marielle Berg 

And again, this is narrowing it down even further. But I just love that question. Like if no one else knew, would this still matter to me? You know would this 100 mile bike ride matter to me if I couldn’t post it on Facebook, or any social media you know? Is this is more about performance, or about trying to get approval from others? Or is this something that’s really going to enrich my life?

Marielle Berg 

I also think that phase of life is important to think about when you do this, because it can shift over time. So what you really value when you’re 25, will probably look different in some ways when you’re 55. So kind of thinking about where you are in in your, your life cycle right now, and updating it periodically. And then just going back to, to kind of honing it down or narrowing it down. Once you choose the goal, you want to work on identifying those small action steps.

Marielle Berg 

So to go back to the example of spirituality. Suppose you choose the goal to spend more time in nature because that’s where you feel connected to something bigger than yourself. You can identify some small action steps towards your goal. And you can think about what can I actually do given the reality of my life now, what’s actually feasible? Because you want to make these doable, so you’ll actually do them. So that might involve finding local hikes to do or joining a walking group or some other kind of outdoor activity group. And I would even say, maybe even a step before that, is doing some research So maybe you like birdwatching, and maybe that helps bring you into nature, and makes you feel like you’re connected to something larger, you know, whatever it might be.

Ed Fowler 

And so, you know, we start with what are my values, you know, which are important to me? Which one am I going to focus on? Then, what are some goals to get me towards that particular value being more part of my life? Choose one goal, identify a bunch of action steps, and then do one action step and see what happens.

Ed Fowler 

And if it goes, well then do another. And if it doesn’t go well, like you start to try to research birdwatching, and find it’s really complicated. And it’s not helping you feel a sense of spiritual connectedness, then you go back and look at some of the other action steps and try some other ones. But the point of it is, that we’re, on a regular basis, checking in with our values, our life goals, the big picture of our lives, and making sure that we’re taking actions towards that, and not saying, Oh, I’ll get to my life goals, when I’ve achieved X, Y, or Z, which oftentimes, we feel unfulfilled until we get to that point.

Marielle Berg 

Yes, and that’s such an important thing to keep in mind, not putting it off. And it’s interesting I said, birdwatching, because about six months ago, I tried it. I have some friends who got very into it. Not for me.

Ed Fowler 

Right.

Marielle Berg 

So. But for other people. So, at least thinking about what, what’s important to you.

Ed Fowler 

And I think also another thing that that we’ve talked about is like, choosing values that would be important to you, even if no one else knew. But I think dialectically we care what other people think. We want to be able to post that we did a huge bike ride on to our social media, right? Like, and so it’s not an either or have like only do things that no one else knows. It’s like, no, for me a value is I like people to be proud of me and I like people to be impressed with what I’m doing. And I’m doing this because this is important to me and not just because I want other people to care. So really, with all of this with Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Long Term, being dialectical, thinking big picture, being realistic, and mainly trying to do something that moves you towards longer term goals.

Marielle Berg 

The last thing I’ll add, in terms of values, is that for everyone, attending to relationships is an important value. We are relational human beings, we need other people. Some, some people are more introverted, some people are more extroverted, so it’s not that you necessarily need a ton of people, but not forgetting that. Or not forgetting the value of having relationships in your life. And that might just be one, one person you’re close with.

Marielle Berg 

So that involves if you wanted to work on relationships, is repairing old relationships if you can, and the longer a relationship goes without repair, the harder it can be to revive it. Reaching out for new relationships, working on current relationships, again, not letting relational problems just sort of, you know, get swept under the rug, and ending destructive relationships. So I would say this is one that across the board that matters to everyone. Or, ideally. I don’t like the word should. But it’s an important one.

Ed Fowler 

It’s something to be thoughtful about.

Marielle Berg 

Yes.

Ed Fowler 

So moving on from Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Short Term and the Long Term. Another skill that reduces vulnerability to Emotion Mind is Building Mastery. And it really kind of goes along with Accumulating Positive Emotions.

Ed Fowler 

The awareness that, in order to feel emotionally flexible, and emotionally balanced, we really do need to have a sense of accomplishment, that we’re working towards something and making progress. And that’s where Building Mastery can be such a valuable skill for that emotional resilience by really, with deliberate action, trying to do things that stretch us, but also build a sense of I am mastering something new, I’m growing, I’m achieving things that are hard for me.

Marielle Berg 

This can do so much for self confidence or sense of self respect, self esteem, the sense of feeling like I can do hard things. And look, I have these things to to point to, when I falter in my belief that I can do hard things.

Marielle Berg 

So when you’re working on Building Mastery, you want to find the sweet spot between doing something, like you don’t want to do something that’s too hard and then you give up, because that certainly happens. I think when people try to do something new, and they want to work on Building Mastery, that they set their goal a little bit too high. And then you’re like, well forget it, I can’t, I can’t do this.

Marielle Berg 

You also don’t want to set your goal, your sights too low, because then you don’t, there’s no challenge there. There’s nothing to kind of, you know, struggle against and try if it’s something that’s too easy, or you already know how to do. So finding that, again, that sweet spot, that in between place where it’s a bit of a challenge, it takes some focus, it’s you’re, you’re stretching yourself a bit, but it isn’t way beyond what you can do, so so you give up in frustration.

Ed Fowler 

And again, I think, like really being deliberate about this, so that I’m choosing to Build Mastery in some area. And I’m going to make a plan for what’s going to be the build up of this. And I’m going to try to do it on a regular basis.

Ed Fowler 

So not just I know, I’m going to take up knitting, I think that would be great. And then we don’t do anything. Or I’m going to take up knitting and commit to everyone that I’m knitting sweaters for their birthdays, and it’s like, oh, my gosh, the first five birthdays have come and I haven’t, I don’t still know how to knit. That’s too much right? Or, I’m going to take up knitting and what I’m going to do is spend the first year just reading stuff about knitting. Now, that’s not as much of a stretch. But really saying I want to get into knitting, I think this will give me a sense of accomplishment, I’m going to look up a plan for how to build your mastery with knitting. And I’m going to try to implement that, a little bit at a time, so that there’s a sense of direction towards it.

Marielle Berg 

And I think this skill can be overlooked, especially for people who have struggled a lot in their life, and have maybe had really big or overwhelming emotions, we can forget how important Building Mastery really is to our emotional resilience. I think we all need to have things that we can point to, that are sort of something we can hang on to that shows that we have resilience and strength, and we can accomplish things.

Marielle Berg 

And then the next skill we have is called Cope Ahead. And this is a skill that you use, when you can anticipate that you are going to be in a situation that will evoke some difficult emotions, and potentially some problem behaviors. So you know that where you can anticipate that you are going to see certain family members, and there’s a good chance the conversation may go in a direction, because it often does, that will be very hard for you, will bring up difficult emotions and may make you want to do or say something you’re going to later regret. So coping ahead of time with anticipated difficult situations.

Marielle Berg 

I gave the example of a family gathering, it could be you know a tough time at work, when maybe it’s a crunch time and you have a lot of projects due. It can be a time when you’re traveling and you’re gonna be jet lagged and you know, when you’re really jet lagged, that you tend to be more in Emotion Mind. So it can be really anything that you know, might, or any situation that you can anticipate in advance, might be challenging for you, and developing a plan to cope ahead. And so we can talk in more detail about how exactly that that plan can look.

Ed Fowler 

Right. And and I think that the important part of coping ahead is the acknowledgement that hard things happen. And we tend to feel more secure if we’ve got a plan for how to deal with those hard things, that we know we can anticipate. We can’t anticipate everything. But on the other side, if we know something difficult is coming up and we know we don’t have a plan for how to deal with it, that tends to increase our stress and our worry and our anxiety. And so having a plan, a coping ahead plan, is really valuable.

Ed Fowler 

And the starting point for coping ahead is just to identify what is the situation that is going to be hard? What am I dealing with here? Getting really factual about it, checking the facts, like what are the facts of the situation that I need to deal with? And one of the facts might be I have a lot of negative assumptions about what’s going to happen, and I need to deal with that. But like just really, what’s the problem? And what are the facts of the situation, so that you know what you’re dealing with in order to then start to make a coping plan.

Marielle Berg 

With that, also naming the emotions and actions that you can anticipate that you’re going to feel, that might make it harder for you to act effectively. And I think just that first step of, you know, saying or writing out or thinking through, okay, this is the potential problem situation. And this is what I think I might feel. And this is what I think I might want to do based on you know, past experiences, can be incredibly helpful. Because you now you again, you brought it to the front of your mind, instead of kind of pushing it aside and being like, I’ll deal with that later, or it’s not going to be that bad, things like that. But you’re kind of owning like this, this might be tricky, and I want to plan to deal with it.

Marielle Berg 

And so you want to describe how you’re going to cope. What skills you’re going to use, and be really specific. You’ll probably want to write this out in detail, and have it with you, because we can forget in the heat of the moment. So you can think about like, am I going to call someone? If so who is that going to be? If they’re not available, who else might I contact? Am I going to use my TIPP skills? Am I going to think about Radical Acceptance? I mean, it can be a whole list of different things you might do, but getting pretty specific about what skills do I want to remember to use in the moment.

Ed Fowler 

And then I think that, once you have your plan outlined for yourself, and you’ve really thought it through and you know what your plan is, one of the things that can be very, very helpful is to take some time imagining yourself enacting your plan. Just really vividly imagining being in the difficult situation, enacting your coping plan and having it succeed.

Ed Fowler 

And one of the values of this, using imagination in this way, is that there’s so much research on how the human brain doesn’t distinguish between doing something and imagining doing it. And so this is where for, you know, elite athletes, or really elite artists, they spend a lot of time imagining doing the thing that they have to do, because it gives him the benefit of practice without having to actually be practicing. You can’t, you know, if you’re playing tennis, you can’t practice 24/7. But you can do a lot of physical practice, and then imagine practice, and that also adds benefits.

Ed Fowler 

So figuring out your coping plan, imagine putting it into place and having it succeed. That gives you the benefit of practice without having to go into the situation itself, to do that practice.

Marielle Berg 

And it’s the opposite of what we might tend to do, which is like, I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to, you know, imagine when I’m in that, you know, crunch time at work, or I’m at that family thing where it’s really hard, I just want to push it to the back of my mind, and I’ll deal with it when it happens. But this is asking you to not just imagine the stressful thing, but handling it well, succeeding. And so it’s a it’s a different kind of experience, it can be stressful, but there’s hopefully more positive emotions associated with with that imagining of the scenario.

Marielle Berg 

And so you really want to rehearse in your mind coping effectively. What exactly are you going to do and say? If new problems arise, how might you cope effectively with those? And then even asking yourself, if the thing I most fear if like the worst catastrophe happens, how am I going to cope with that? And again, this is something that I think is human nature to just want to avoid. Like, I don’t want to think about that. It can be so useful to think about the things you’re really scared of, and come up with a plan.

Ed Fowler 

And I think this also works again, something that I think I know, I practice and a lot of people practice which is not coping ahead, but struggling ahead. I’m going to imagine this horrible situation and how terrible it’s going to be. And I’m going to feel awful about it. I’m not imagining myself coping, I’m just like, oh, it’s going to be so bad, it’s going to be so bad. And then she’s going to say this, and oh, it’s gonna be so much harder. But really coping ahead is working against avoiding or struggling ahead, and living through the difficult time by saying, What’s my plan? How will I cope? Let me thoroughly imagine this plan, and then when you’re done practicing in your mind, relax, to give yourself that that benefit of like, I can do hard things and then I get to relax. And you do that with imagining coping ahead. And then when you actually enact your plan, you relax after that as well.

Marielle Berg 

Yeah, the relaxing is so important. So just giving yourself a moment to breathe or calm down because it might feel a little bit stressful and just to bring yourself back to Wise Mind and your baseline. I really liked the term struggling ahead or Struggle Ahead, which I didn’t know that had a name but it’s so appropriate.

Ed Fowler 

I don’t know that it does, but.

Marielle Berg 

Let’s let’s name it, because it’s something I certainly have done, I’ve seen in myself and seen in so many people I know. Where we’re predicting how terrible it’s going to be. And it really can put us in a helpless kind of place. And so this skill is, is doing something very different with Cope Ahead.

Ed Fowler 

Right. It’s empowering us.

Marielle Berg 

And then our final skill is the PLEASE skill, which is a creative acronym that is really about taking care of your mind and your emotions by tending to your body. And so these are all things that most people know about, but can be hard to implement. And so things like sleep and eating and exercise and staying away from mood altering substances, this is sort of like the the foundation that, as humans, we need to have in place, as much as we can, to function optimally.

Ed Fowler 

Yeah, I think most people can relate to when we are physically not feeling great, we often are also then emotionally not feeling great. And when our physical health is more in balance, our emotions tend to be more in balance. And so really, attending to our physical health can make a huge impact on our ability to manage emotions.

Ed Fowler 

So to go through the specific checkpoints in the PLEASE skill of things to pay attention to to keep your physical health and balance, the P and L stands for Treating Physical iLlness. So we take that L from the middle of the phrase, but it works, it makes a nice acronym. So the P and L are Treating Physical Illness. The E is for Balanced Eating. The A is for Avoiding Mood Altering Substances, the S is for Balancing our Sleep. And the E is for Balancing our Exercise and making sure to get exercise.

Marielle Berg 

And many of these we could say much more on, and can you know, it might involve a myriad of skills. For example, to try to get enough sleep. That’s one that is you know, trips up many people and many folks struggle with. So I don’t want to simplify how challenging some of this can be. But just remembering to keep in mind that if our if we’re ignoring our body, which again can happen a lot with trauma survivors, because the body’s the seat of where often, where things, traumatic things, have happened. And so we might want to kind of ignore our body needs or think they’re not important. But so this skill is asking us to pay attention.

Marielle Berg 

Like how much sleep do I really need? What helps me get a good night’s sleep? What kind of exercise or movement feels best in my body? How can I nourish myself in a way that helps me be emotionally stable? And for some people you might already know, and you might be skilled at this. And for others, it’s, it’s going to take some trial and error to really discover that for yourself.

Ed Fowler 

And I think that with with these aspects of attending to our body, there isn’t, isn’t really a perfect, and we don’t achieve a goal. Where all my eating is balanced, and now I’m completely in balance forever. Most of these things are things that we do need to check in on on a regular basis to strike the balance.

Ed Fowler 

And for me, the PLEASE skill can be especially helpful, again, we use this as a skill for building emotional resilience. If I’m intending to my physical health, I’m going to have more bandwidth for emotions. For me also, if I’m struggling emotionally, I’ll check in on the PLEASE skills. Is there some aspect of my physical health that is out of balance? And I need to put some effort into balancing again, like, Oh, I haven’t been exercising at all, and I’m feeling really stressed. Maybe I need to put some more effort into exercise. And so using the PLEASE skills in that way, as kind of gauge of like, Oh, I’m struggling emotionally, what’s going on with my PLEASE skills? Is there something I could put effort into?

Marielle Berg 

I just want to note that for listeners with ongoing chronic medical conditions, that this can be challenging. So again, as Ed said, this is not about perfection. There’s no way you can kind of get this wrong. But given the realities of whatever situation or health issues you’re dealing with, how can you take the best care of yourself that you can?

Ed Fowler 

It’s really like a reminder to attend to our bodies in order to help our emotions be in balance as well. Doing whatever works and whatever we need, and it requires some openness and willingness, the ability to accept reality of like, Yeah, I’m not sleeping because there’s all these things going on. But I can put effort into exercise. And maybe that’s a way to strike balance. So we look at what, what can we do? What are our options, and just noticing if something physically is out of balance is there something that we could do to get it into more balance, and do those things.

Marielle Berg 

And so that’s our overview our part two of the Emotion Regulation skills. Again, these are all skills that will help you be more emotionally resilient, and help you be in Emotion Mind less of the time.

Ed Fowler 

So give some of these a shot, even though, as Marielle said earlier, these are not big bang, immediate impact skills. They’re so worth putting effort into because they do help us feel more in balance in general.

Marielle Berg 

All right, until next time. Thank you, Ed.

Ed Fowler 

Thank you.

Marielle Berg 

Thanks for listening to today’s episode. To learn more or if you’re in the Bay Area and want to get started with therapy you can find us online at bayareadbtcc.com. That’s bayareadbtcc.com.