Available April 1st, 2012
Stress affects everyone in different ways and can actually help some people become more productive and innovative. But extreme stress more often has a paralyzing effect, and can lead to negative coping behaviors like anger, emotional overreactions, anxiety, and alcohol, drug, or food abuse. This book is the first to offer a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) program for coping with extreme stress in healthier ways. The four DBT skills can help those prone to overreactions and other negative responses to stress to embrace imperfections, expand their options, and soothe themselves in stressful situations. The Stress Response invites readers to explore their personal stress reactions and practice these new methods of solving the everyday problems that trigger stress. Readers also learn to accept their most stressed-out emotions and thoughts without judging them, and gradually decrease their vulnerability to stress.
If you’d like to see some of my newer posts, you can follow these links to Psychcentral.com and Mentalhelp.net, where I am a contributor and featured blogger on the topics of stress reduction, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Mindfulness.
Some recent posts include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills that Help Women Survive Stress and Are You Highly Emotionally Sensitive?
If you’re heading back to school or just need a few helpful tips on how to reduce your stress and improve your health, check out the article 101 Ways to Hack a Super Stressful Day at Onlineclasses.org. There are a wide range of tips for work, health and managing emotions, some of the tips include: create a mantra, follow a schedule, stop multitasking, accept less than perfect, smile, work out, drink water and take a walk. There are 101 great tips.
In order to understand how you manage your emotions now, it is helpful to think through what you tend to do when faced with crisis, overwhelming emotion or just the stress of everyday living. The following are questions to get you thinking about it.
What do you do to get focused?
What helps you feel centered and present in the moment?
When you’re in a bad mood, what works to change it?
When have you actively done something to help manage feeling angry, stressed, or anxious? What did you do?
What do you do to distract yourself when you’re upset? What do you do to take care of and soothe yourself?
What emotion is the most difficult for you to deal with?
What helps you calm down when you’re upset?
What is hardest for you 1) asking for things you want or need from people, 2) keeping calm when someone tells you ‘NO’, or 3) sticking to your values, even if it means someone will be upset with you.
What negative emotion do you have most often?
Are there aspects of your life that you are currently avoiding dealing with?
Changing emotions, managing crisis, handling conflict and improving awareness of the present require knowledge of how you cope with pain and negative feelings. Attending to what has worked and what is most difficult for you is a step towards better understanding yourself and your need for additional skills.
Where do emotions come from? Are they simply a wave that rolls over you, unpredictable and unchangable?
Emotions are triggered by events in our environments or in our bodies. Something happens that starts the process of an emotional experience. This could be anything from rain outside to feeling sore from exercise.
It is our thoughts about an event, not the event itself, that determines the emotion we will experience. If it is raining, you might think “I hate the rain” or you might think “At least it’s not snow.” Those two different thoughts will result in very different emotions.
You will feel the emotion as physical sensations in your body. A few examples are that sinking feeling in your stomach, your heart racing, a lack of energy or a burst of energy.
Verbal communication is the ability to name and label the emotion. What does that sinking feeling mean? How about sweaty palms and a racing heart? The ability to name and label your emotions adds a feeling of control and actually can decrease their intensity.
Finally there is an action urge with each emotion. Fear causes us to want to run or hide, anger causes an urge to approach and attack, happiness to reach out to others.
Prompting Event: Something happens
Interpretation: What do you think about he prompting event?
Body Response: What physical sensations do you feel? How does your face change?
Verbal Communication: Can you name the emotion? Can you communicate it verbally to others?
Action Urges: What do you feel
Understanding the story of emotions is an essential step in beginning to change how you feel. You can begin to change how you feel by finding ways to have more pleasant experiences or by changing how you think about the events that are already happening in your life.
Sometimes the best way to experience fewer painful emotions is to simply let them go. It’s not possible to avoid all painful feelings. Everyone will, at one point or another, feel anger, sadness, fear or shame. For some these emotions tend to linger. In order to reduce the amount of time you spend in negative emotions, try the exercise below.
As you breathe in, you say to yourself: “Mindfully breathing.” As you breathe out, you say to yourself: “Letting go of X …” (here you insert whatever you’d like to have less of such as anxiety, tension, anger, judgments, perfectionism, etc.). You can select one thing to let go of and say that recurrently or let go of a whole series that comes to mind. Eventually, the practice often reduces to: Mindfully breathing, Letting go.
This breathing exercise can be done alone or practiced in a group. In a group one can go around the room with each member saying aloud what he or she would like to let go of. Those who don’t want to participate can say, “pass.” This can be done with several rotations. This tends to build a sense of group cohesiveness in addition to teaching a mindful breathing skill.
Richard Davidson, one of the world’s top brain scientists, studies how mindfulenss meditation, can change the neural circuitry in our brains and, as a result, how our brains function.
In an an ongoing study of the brains of Buddhist monks, each of whom had accomplished at least 10,000 hours of meditation, Davidson has found that mental practice can:
• change the brain in response to meditation
• induce long-lasting changes in the brain
• improve mental attributes and positive emotions such as compassion and empathy
• potentially alter the “happiness set point” in the brain for the better