Thursday, 15 December 2016

DBT Skill: 'Cope ahead'

TW flashbacks, crisis, suicidal thoughts, self harm

As you may know, there are four categories of DBT skills: mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and distress tolerance.

At the moment, I am thinking about the category emotion regulation. For me, emotion regulation is about coping with the intense highs and the crashing lows. It'a also about knowing the triggers and recognising (through mindfulness) when I am speeding up into a high- which can all too often lead to a crash. A skill I am digging out at the moment from emotion regulation is called 'cope ahead'.

I'm digging it out because it's coming up to Christmas and a time of year when, historically, I have struggled and have been in crisis. It has been a time when in the past I haven't been able to regulate moods and I have spiralled into self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

I am worried about being catapulted into a past mental space because of the associations with particular times. So using the skill 'cope ahead' right now means that I'm making a plan for how to deal with any flashbacks or difficult memories that are stirred up.

Cope ahead, especially with regard to flashbacks, might involve:
  • mindfulness: reminding yourself that you are in the present moment
  • rehearsing the upcoming situation so it's less of a shock
  • knowing your support network for that time 
  • remembering to be responsive, rather than reactive. Waiting to see if the impulse passes.
  • using other skills such as '5 senses', to distract, ground yourself during difficult memories etc. 
  • using 'describe', for example, 'I am anxious because I am experiencing a stressful memory. It will pass.' 

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Have you got experience with any of these skills or experiences? Please feel free to share them @TalkingAboutBPD if you want to.