DBT Exercises for Anxiety

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a transformative and evidence-based approach to managing anxiety and other emotional disorders.

Originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder, DBT combines the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy with mindfulness practices derived from Buddhist meditative traditions.

This innovative therapy offers individuals a practical set of skills to navigate emotional landscapes, regulate intense feelings, and reduce anxiety.

By teaching patients how to identify triggers, manage stress, and establish healthier thinking patterns, DBT provides a lifeline for those grappling with anxiety, offering them a pathway toward a calmer, more balanced life. 


Anxiety Therapists in Colorado

Jennifer Luttman, LPC, ACS

Jennifer Luttman, LPC, ACS

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Sarah Munk, LPC

Sarah Munk, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Mikayla Braukhoff, LPC

Mikayla Braukhoff, LPC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Joshua Goldberg, LPCC

Joshua Goldberg, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021
Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC, NCC, EMDR-Trained

Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC, NCC, EMDR-Trained

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Laura Brinkman, MA, LPCC

Laura Brinkman, MA, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Margot Bean, LCSW

Margot Bean, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Leigh Harlan, LPC

Leigh Harlan, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Brooke Moraski, LPCC, NCC

Brooke Moraski, LPCC, NCC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Julianna Miller, LPCC

Julianna Miller, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Paitton Callery, LPC, ATR-P

Paitton Callery, LPC, ATR-P

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Joel Harms, MA, LPC

Joel Harms, MA, LPC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121

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T.I.P.P (Tip the temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing, Paired muscle relaxation)

This technique helps you cope with distressing emotions by changing your body's physical response.

For example, if you're feeling particularly anxious or overwhelmed, you might try "Tipping the temperature" by splashing your face with cold water.

This triggers the mammalian dive reflex, which can slow down your heart rate and help to calm you down.

Alternatively, engaging in "Intense exercise", like going for a quick run or doing a few sets of jumping jacks, can help distract your mind and reduce anxiety.

"Paced breathing", or taking slow, deep breaths, can also help lower your heart rate and promote relaxation.

Finally, "Paired muscle relaxation", which involves tensing and then relaxing your muscles, can further aid in reducing tension and stress.



Self-Soothing

Self-soothing is a valuable DBT exercise that encourages you to engage in comforting and pleasurable activities to help manage feelings of anxiety.

This technique draws upon the five senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch - to find calming and enjoyable experiences that can distract from distressing emotions.

For example, if you find warmth soothing, you might draw yourself a hot bath infused with your favorite scented oils, or wrap yourself in a cozy blanket.

If you're comforted by companionship, spending time cuddling with a pet or hugging a loved one can be incredibly soothing.

For those who find solace in nature, taking a walk in a park or garden, or even just sitting outside to enjoy the fresh air, can help alleviate anxiety.

Similarly, listening to calming music, tasting a favorite food, or looking at beautiful scenery or art can also provide a sense of comfort and ease.

The key is to find what truly brings you peace and joy and to allow yourself the time to engage in these activities when you're feeling anxious.


One-Mindfully

One-Mindfully, a core concept in DBT encourages full engagement in the present moment as a means to manage anxiety.

This skill involves focusing all your attention on the task at hand, allowing you to experience life more directly and reduce the impact of distracting anxiety-inducing thoughts.

As an example, if you're washing dishes, focus entirely on that activity. Feel the temperature of the water, notice the bubbles forming from the soap, and pay attention to the motion of your hands scrubbing each dish.

If you're eating, savor each bite, noticing the texture and flavor of the food.

By fully immersing yourself in these experiences, you can create a sense of calm and focus that counters anxiety.

This practice can be applied to any activity, like reading a book, writing a letter, or even just breathing.

The goal is to stay present and engaged, rather than allowing your mind to wander to anxious thoughts.



Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation helps to identify and label one's feelings, introducing more positive emotional experiences.

For example, if a person is feeling overwhelmed with work, they can first recognize this as stress.

They can then schedule a relaxing activity, like a walk in a park or reading a book, to increase positive emotions.

If the stress becomes too intense, they can use distress tolerance techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to alleviate the discomfort.

This process of recognizing, responding, and managing emotions is at the heart of emotional regulation.


Distractions and Activities

The strategy of using distractions and activities is an effective way to manage overwhelming emotions or anxiety.

By creating a list of distractions and activities that only take a few minutes, you can have a go-to resource when you need a quick break from what's causing you stress.

These small actions serve as mental diversions, giving your mind a moment to relax and reset, and can often help in lowering the intensity of the emotions you're experiencing.

Here are some interesting ideas for activities:

  • Aromatherapy: Using essential oils like lavender or chamomile can help soothe your senses and distract your mind.

  • Virtual Reality Games: Engage in a different world and divert your mind from anxiety.

  • Origami: The Japanese art of paper folding requires concentration and can be a great distraction.

  • Learning a Magic Trick: This unique and fun distraction will also give you a new skill to show off.

  • DIY Home Decor Projects: Creating something beautiful for your space can be rewarding and distracting.

  • Dance Breaks: Put on your favorite song and have a 5-minute dance party.

  • Photography Challenges: Try a daily challenge, like capturing images of specific colors or themes.

  • Mindful Coloring: Adult coloring books can offer creative and meditative distraction.

  • Creating Playlists: Make a playlist for different moods or activities.

  • Learning a New Language: Use a language learning app for quick, daily lessons.

  • Practicing Calligraphy: The focus required for this art form can help distract from anxiety.

  • Podcast Exploration: Find a new podcast on a topic you know nothing about.

  • Virtual Volunteering: Find an online cause you're passionate about and dedicate some time to it.

  • Meditative Knitting: The repetitive motions can be calming and help redirect your focus.

Remember, these activities are meant to distract and not to cure anxiety. If anxiety becomes overwhelming, it is important to reach out to a mental health professional for support and guidance


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Complete this questionnaire to discover service providers that match your requirements! No need to provide contact information.


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Conclusion

DBT offers a robust toolkit of exercises that can significantly help manage anxiety.

By fostering mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness, DBT enables individuals to navigate through anxious feelings rather than being overwhelmed by them.

While these exercises may require practice and patience, their benefits are profound and long-lasting.

With the guidance of a trained professional, DBT can empower individuals to transform their relationship with anxiety, leading to a more balanced, serene, and fulfilling life. 


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July 13th, 2024

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