The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

Coronavirus Retreat Tip 2 on Distress Tolerance Skills

on March 22, 2020

Stay Home Stay OM

We are all struggling to feel safe, stable, useful and effective during this pandemic challenge. I know for sure that when I feel peaceful and useful, everything else falls into place.

Feeling peaceful and useful is the foundation for a great life…trying to be “happy” or “ecstatic” all the time is worthless to me.  Happiness is fleeting, and as much as I love ecstasy, it also does not last long enough. Being peaceful and useful, however, offers long term gains, which often bloom into happiness and sometimes the ecstatic joy of living.

HOW DO WE BECOME MORE PEACEFUL DURING THE PANDEMIC? 

There are many different paths of coping as you trudge up this pandemic mountain, the question is which path works for you.  I suggest you keep trying these methods — and others — to see what works.  Over time you will have a colorful tool kit with many different coping methods that you can use as needed.

Today’s tip has some useful skills for increasing your tolerance to distress and anxiety.  There are two key principles at work with the TIPP skills.

⭐First, every thought becomes a chemical reaction in your body.  Change your thoughts, change your experience of your life. Mind/Body medicine works both ways.
⭐Second, “the issues are in your tissues.”  When you release the stress and toxins in your flesh, bones, muscles, skin, you feel a tremendous mental release and relief.
Let’s start with the empirically verified TIPP Skills  for quickly changing your body chemistry:tipp
Source:  Adapted from Linehan, M. (2015).Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets. New York: Guildford Press. P. 329.

Let me unpack these TIPP skills and add in my suggestions:

Temperature – you can create what’s call the “The Dive Response” in a few ways.  The Dive Response will lower your blood pressure and relax your nervous system.  Ways to shift temperature include:

  • Set up a bowl of cold water and dunk your face into it for as long as you can hold your breath. Do this a few times, until you feel relief.
  • Take an ice pack, wrap in a towel and place on your cheeks, brow, neck.
  • Hold ice cubes in your hands.
  • Freeze a lemon or orange, and squeeze the frozen citrus.  Provides cooling effect plus aromatherapy.
  • Take a washcloth and moisten with cold water, but it on your brow (better effect laying down.)

Intense Exercise – in addition to the jumping jacks, push ups, running, walking fast, fast dancing, Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga etc, I recommend the “Cross Crawl.”  You can do this standing up or on the floor.  This is a movement that gets your heart rate up super fast, can be done in place, and in five minutes you will feel the shift and release. It also provides excellent mental stimulation and has been shown to improve memory, creativity and focus as the cross-lateral activity heightens the exchange between the left and right hemispheres of our brains.

“Therapeutically, cross crawl refers to any intentional cross-lateral activity in which you cross the mid-line of the body, such as touching opposite hand and knee or foot.  Performing this movement builds the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, allowing for electrical impulses and information to pass freely between the two, which is essential for physical coordination as well as cerebral activities, such as learning language, reading, and hand-to-eye coordination.” (Source: https://www.yourtherapysource.com/blog1/2019/06/16/cross-crawl/)

Paced Breathing – Whether you do the “Take 5” method, which is inhaling to count of five, holding for 5 and then exhaling to 5, or any variation of slowed down breathwork, it will work.   The only way to do this wrong is to not do it at all!  When we do this in my DBT Skills Groups, I add on the physical hand movement of placing the dominant hand on the heart area and the other hand on the naval area.  Touching these two power centers (Solar Plexus and Heart chakra) has an additional calming effect.   The body feels more centered and cared for, a sense of compassion flows, and we feel we are doing useful self-parenting in this position.  This is also considered the Reiki I position, which begins a deeply relaxing sequence of psycho-spiritual  events in the body.

Paired Muscle Relaxation – This is when we begin to scan our bodies head to toe or toe to head, and start to tighten and release muscle groups.  This can be done sitting or lying down. It is most effective to inhale, tighten, hold for a few seconds, and then release.   I sometimes like to pair the muscle contractions with cognitive suggestions, e.g. Breathe in harmony, breathe out chaos. Breath in unconditional love, breathe out fear. Breathe in acceptance, breathe out anger.

You can find many free versions of Paced Breathing and Paired Muscle Relaxation at Insight Timer, and all over the internet.   Insight Timer has versions as short as 2 minutes, and as long as 90 minutes for each of these processes. (I also have a few videos on YouTube concerning Body Scans and Paced Breathing as well.)

May these TIPP Skills enhance your Coronavirus Retreat today!

Onward and Upward in good health,

Lisa Wessan

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2020. All rights reserved.

 

 


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