I think sometimes when people hear the term crisis survival, it's unclear what we mean by that. So I just wanted to start by saying that you know, how we're framing it in DBT. And why I think it's universal, not just for suicidal clients are not just for clients who have lots of impulsive behavior problems, is that really what we're talking about with crisis survival is how to get through difficult times, in effective ways, without doing anything to make the situation or to make your stress or anxiety worse.
So seems to me like this time that we're all going through would qualify as a crisis. And so in this time, we need to learn how to be skillful. We can also frame crisis survival skills as skills for tolerating painful events and emotions, when you cannot make them better right away. There is no amount of willpower right now. Or even any individual problem solving right now, that's going to get rid of this painful event, and probably won't for the foreseeable future. And so we need to learn how do we tolerate this in a way that is functional, and effective, doesn't make our lives worse, and doesn't make the lives of others around us worse. So crisis survival, our skills right now.
Those of you who know anything about DBT, know that DBT is a treatment of acronyms. And while some of the acronyms might seem kind of silly to you, we're not generally how you think about teaching or using skills, the the relevance of acronyms are to help you remember them and to serve as a mnemonic device. And we need these, we especially need these when we're in heightened periods of stress, because you're not going to be able to necessarily remember off the top of your head, what are the seven distract skills, but you might be able to remember the word accepts and then start to fill in, what does accept stand for. So the distract skills are, we all know what distract means distract means to kind of turn your attention away from something that's causing you stress or anxiety. And we probably know, ways to distract that are maladaptive sometimes.
And certainly clients know, lots of ways to distract with maladaptive behavior.
This is about avoidance, which is usually not something we talked about in DBT. But it's functional avoidance is how do you avoid in the short term, something that's causing you a lot of difficulty and stress? And how do you avoid in a functional adaptive way?
The mnemonic here is to remember the phrase wise mind except because you're doing this with wisdom. And you're doing this mindfully.
So here are all the many ways in which we could actually functionally distract from stressors. So some of these might be pretty obvious to you. But I want you to think about in your own mind, different ways in which you might do this, that that are actually more adaptive for you.
One way in which we can distract is to do something active, taking doing something to take your mind off the stress. So it could be things like exercising, which we'll come back to later, doing a particular hobby, could be things like cleaning or playing a video game, watching something on TV or playing a sport or doing something that kind of occupies your short term memory, that's kind of what we're trying to do with these activities is occupy our short term memory, and really try to actually kind of fully consume it.
So that you're not just you're not thinking about the things that are causing you stress. So some of us might think that we're doing we're distracting ourselves because we put on a TV show in the background. But actually, we're watching something. And we're also checking our phone. And we're also doing email. And we're also on social media, we're also doing all this other things.
That's actually not a good example of functionally distracting. Here, you would do an activity kind of mind, body and soul, you would say, I'm turning off everything else, while I throw myself into watching this TV show or I'm going to turn off everything else while I go for a run outside, something like that.
The next skill contributing is is actually doing something for someone else, or for the world. So it actually can take your mind off the crisis by by contributing back to something I actually am doing this hour.
Because I'm practicing the skill of contributing what what could I do that makes me feel like I'm I'm relieved leaving some stress and also distracting away because I'm not thinking about all the other things I need to be doing or worried about right now. Because right now I'm in this moment contributing by giving this webinar. So you could think about how you actually might use this time to, to contribute in some meaningful way. Maybe you actually contribute from your home computer or to a political campaign, maybe you volunteer in some other ways that are, would be useful right now. But contributing here could also mean doing something nice for someone.
This could be calling, reaching out to people, writing cards for people, sending people nice emails, just really doing something to take your mind and attention off how crisis is affecting you. And instead contributing to other people in your life. Takes the focus off yourself. In comparison, you know, this is a skill that I feel like people either use it a lot and like it or hate it and vowed never to use it. And I want to say that I do think there's some value in it.
But the the skill of comparison means comparing yourself to people that are coping the same or less well than you. So for example, you might say in this situation, this feels really stressful and horrible. But at least I live somewhere where where medical help is available, or this is stressful, and the world seems like it's falling apart. But at least I am in relatively good health, and I will survive this. So this is the skill of comparison.
The reason why some people hate it is because they then feel guilty about comparing themselves to people that are less fortunate than them. And I certainly understand that that is something that could come up for people. But I do think it's also pretty natural to try to say that things maybe aren't as bad as I think they are for me. And that's what the skills competitive comparison, helps with.
Emotions are the E here stands for doing something that elicits different emotions than what you're feeling. So maybe right now what you're feeling his fear and anxiety. So what would cause a different emotion would be to watch a comedy special, or to listen to a comedy podcast now, not a news podcast, not something that does all of these other things that raise your stress, but something that elicits opposite emotions or different emotions than what you're currently experiencing, could be listening to music that evokes a different feeling in you, and not music that kind of amps you up, right? So often, what you need to do here is first figure out what is the emotion you're experiencing, and then identify what are things that you could do that would elicit a different opposite emotion.
P stands for pushing away. So pushing away is, is mentally putting the situation on on a box on a shelf somewhere, some people are really good at this. The trick here is to not overuse it, because we can't dig a hole in the sand and stick our head in for the rest of eternity. But we could say, for the next hour, I am not thinking about this. And I'm going to put it away. And I will return to it later. But right now, I'm not going to do it.
Probably many of you already do this. To a large extent in in everyday life, you know, you have a situation in which you fought with someone close friend or a family member. And then you have to go into a session, you're mentally saying, I can't think about that fight with my friend right now because I got to focus on my client. That's the skill of pushing away.
And here what I'm saying is when you're consumed by your own thoughts and your own anxiety, you can mentally say, I'm not going to do that right now. I'm going to push it away for the short term with other thoughts. So when we're feeling stressed and anxious, our mind seems to be working in overdrive. So many thoughts flooding in, feels uncontrollable, one of the ways in which we could distract away from those thoughts is to engage in some kind of mental activity that is kind of incompatible with all the stressful, anxious thoughts that you're having. So doing puzzles, for example, reading, reading something that is that is gripping so that it really takes your attention away. So that similar to the activity skill Your mind kind of can't both worry and do this skill. You want to do that with thoughts. My favorite is crossword puzzles, where when I'm doing crossword puzzles, I am totally consumed by thinking about the crossword puzzle. And it is a good, good opportunity to just put my attention on one thing.
So you're looking for things that you could do. You know, we have had clients who when they talk about really stressful times when they're in a room, and things are really and they're really dysregulated, you could look around the room and just identify what's something that I can count in this room right now? Are there tiles that I could just count how many tiles are in this room right now? Can I just do math problems in my head, you know, anything that takes your thoughts away from crisis sorts of thoughts.
And then the last except skill is called sensations. And it's really doing something that elicits intense sensations, with the idea of being that the intense sensations again, kind of draw your attention away from the things that are causing you crisis.
Holding ice in your hand, is something that maybe in the first few seconds doesn't elicit intense sensation, but if you do it for longer, you will start to feel intense sensations, they're getting one of those stress balls and squeezing the stress balls very hard, taking a very hot shower or a very cold shower.
These are all intense sensations, that when you feel something as a level of sensation in an intense way, it's going to pull your attention away from things that are difficult.
This is my Crash Course, in the wise mind ACCEPTS skills.
I want to all to take a minute and write down at least two things on here that you're going to do today.