The Right Way to “Chill Out”
Effective real-life therapy techniques we use in our therapeutic approach to teach you how to “chill out”.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a modification of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) that helps you to develop healthy ways to cope with stress, learn how to regulate your emotions, teaches you how to live in the moment, and can help improve your relationship(s) with others.
DBT techniques are proven effective for the following problem areas:
- intrusive thoughts / flashbacks
- worry, anxiety, fear
- panic attacks
- anger + stress
- urges to use / relapse triggers
- trauma triggers / body memories
- suicidal ideation / self-harm thoughts
- impulsive actions
- strong emotional reactions
When you’re emotionally charged, it affects your body as well as your mind.
- blood pressure increases
- heart rate increases
- breathing becomes shallow
- decrease in oxygen to the brain
- activates your central nervous system
DBT techniques are ways to bring your physical + emotional being back to a calm state. Here’s how:
- lowers your blood pressure
- lowers your heart rate
- helps regulate breathing
- calms your central nervous system
- distracts your mind + body
- grounds you to the present moment where you are safe + okay
Four DBT Techniques
Cold temperature can serve as an effective coping skill for intense thoughts, emotions, and or physical body sensations.
Ways to implement this technique:
- take a cold bath or shower
- rub ice cubes in your hands
- drink / chug ice cold water
- open the freezer door + stand in it
Humor can be an effective way to manage stress, anger, + sadness.
A DBT technique that you can use to help regulate your emotions is called Opposite Action—do an intentional action or activity that creates the opposite emotion of what you’re feeling.
For example, if feeling _______, then do an intentional activity that creates _______.
- Anger to Humor
- Sadness to Happiness / Joy
- Annoyed to Gratitude
- Anxious to Relaxed
Some examples of activities you can do:
- When angry, watch something funny! (For me, a Kevin Hart stand-up!)
- When sad, look at pics of baby animals (reportedly boosts dopamine in the brain).
- When annoyed, write a gratitude list.
- When anxious, practice a deep breathing technique.
**Humor is often used as a way to avoid, deflect, or minimize feeling; it’s a passive communication response. Opposite Action technique is a way to decrease strong intense emotional responses + should not be used as a way to avoid.
This breathing technique calms your central nervous system, oxygenates your brain, and distracts your mind by grounding you to your body.
- Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.
- Breathe in thru your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 1 second, exhale through mouth 8 seconds.
- Notice your heart beating slower and your belly breathing slow down.
Distraction / Physical Action
We know that thoughts directly correlate to feelings, so distracting your thoughts and or intentionally creating a new thought creates a new emotion. We also know that when you are triggered, your mind + body are living in the past or present.
The examples below serve as a physical outlet for your emotional energy, distract your mind by shifting your brain function to focus on thinking rather than feeling, and ground you to the present moment.
- Do 20 burpees / 20 push-ups / 20 jumping jacks. Repeat x’s 3.
- Grounding techniques:
- Name 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 hear things you hear, 2 things you smell, 1 thing you taste. Get specific. Identify each detail—texture, color, etc.
- Count backwards from 100 by 7’s.
- Choose a category and name everything in it. For example, list every dog you can think of. Try another variation of this by naming one thing per letter of the alphabet.
**Please note this is not a solution to what may be triggering you. DBT techniques are an effective way to help you de-escalate in the moment + help minimize your distress. These are in-the-moment coping skills, and do not resolve the root cause to what is creating your emotional distress. Once calm, it’s important to self-reflect + identify what triggered the emotional reaction and discuss those triggers in therapy.**
At WEC, we explore root causes and resolve underlying issues in therapy sessions. Learn more about Our Approach here.