As humans, we all struggle with our emotions at one point or another. Circumstances and tasks can leave us feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or any way that might not be the most productive to our cognition. When faced with situations that generate such reactions, it can be difficult to bring ourselves back into a state of feeling calm and collected; in turn, this cyclical struggle can give rise to even more negative emotions.
However, there are ways that people can sit with adverse emotions and still move forward with their lives without defeat. One way people can achieve this includes the incorporation of dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, in their day-to-day routines. The University of Washington writes that “the term ‘dialectical’ means a synthesis or integration of opposites…primar[ily] between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change.” DBT allows those who practice it to accept that two (or more) conflicting things, ideas, or perceptions can coexist with one another while both being true; the mutual tolerance of these notions can manifest feelings of peace where there was once anxiety and misunderstanding.
So how can you begin to practice DBT in your daily life?
Mindfulness is the “maintaining [of] a moment-to-moment awareness of…thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens,” as defined in UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine. A key to mindfulness is remaining in the present and resisting the temptation to venture into the what-if’s of the future, or the would have’s and should have’s of the past.
I would argue that this is the most challenging aspect of integrating DBT into one’s daily life—mainly because mindfulness itself takes practice and time to conquer. However, don’t let this deter you from trying! Humans are complex and profound creatures—to slow down one’s thoughts in our fast-paced world is not easy. Nevertheless, taking even 30 seconds to observe how you feel without judgment, whether it be emotionally or physically, can be the start to mastering mindfulness.
Learn to Tolerate Difficult Emotions
Instead of trying to change emotions you experience during a particularly difficult situation, you can learn how to cope with them. Therefore, you can allow yourself to feel them. I feel this tip is similar to mindfulness because you will not try to change or suppress the emotions you experience. Instead, you manage yourself and your reaction to the situation.
Ask yourself, what is happening right now that is making me feel this way? Where am I feeling these emotions in my body? What can I do to take care of myself right now? Although distressing emotions can sometimes feel crazy, irrational, or out of line, understand that you are experiencing your emotions for a reason. What you feel is valid. By giving yourself kindness and a “nurturing voice…[that] validat[es] what you’re feeling,” as Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., calls it in her article 9 Healthy Ways to Deal with Distress, you might be able to better cope with emotions that come up.
Dealing with the feelings that come along with being human is not an easy feat. Hopefully, by learning a few tips and tricks of how to become more aware of your cognition and patterns of emotions, you can better cope with them as they manifest.