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I finished up DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) last August, but I still use my DBT skills all the time. There are days when I think I should take a refresher, but most of the time, I am just pleased to recognize that I am reflexively practicing these skills and taking advantage of my improved coping ability.

Mindfulness is number one. I feel like I should make more effort to practice mindfulness, but the moment I realize that I’m upset, or my mind is wandering, or I’m anxious, I start focusing on my breathing. It’s practically automatic. And boy, does it work! It’s amazing that something as basic and necessary as breathing, when done mindfully, can have such a powerful effect on our whole being.

Interpersonal effectiveness skills are coming to the fore more often as I start navigating my way into a new job. Demands are made of me much more frequently, asking for more all the time. It’s flattering, but I recognize now that I really can’t do everything and need to take things at a moderate pace if I’m going to make it through with any panache. I take my time about responding to requests and try to maintain good relationships. It seems more complicated every week, but something as simple as going back to the hairdresser’s to have my hair re-done after a bad cut has become easier to handle than ever.

Emotion regulation hasn’t been as difficult lately as it once was either. I can’t remember the last time I took Ativan for anxiety! I’ve had such a stable mood chart lately that it almost feels odd. And sure, I still have my lousy moments, but instead of blind rage it’s mild peevishness. Even then I realize that I’m being irrational and am quicker to recalibrate. And just letting the emotions come and go is still incredibly valuable. When I stop fighting reality and just allow painful emotions to be what they are, they dissipate quickly. There is no stewing and ruminating anymore. There is no getting worked up into a frenzy. I recognize my emotions, acknowledge and experience them, and they’re gone before I realize it.

The big one in recent history has been distress tolerance. It’s been very stressful to look for housing while waiting for our current house to sell, dealing with all kinds of pressures from all kinds of people. Feeling a bit lousy while traveling, I self-soothed with a piece of chocolate peanut butter cake (though I would have been better off with fresh pineapple or something less sugary…) Realizing I was feeling frayed, I decided to spend some down time by myself, catching up on work. Noticing some nervous energy, I went for a walk outdoors where I could be mindful of nature and relax.

And of course, there’s plenty more; I notice little ways that practicing DBT has helped me almost every day. I see in others a need for the same lessons and practice, and I almost feel sorry for them because they probably won’t ever learn to cope as well as they could, and they will suffer for it. But me, I’m grateful that I stuck it out and really made an effort to learn and practice DBT. And it’s not too late for the rest of you!

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