Are you in distress?

We have now surpassed a year of enduring a pandemic living under lockdowns and restrictions, working from home, job or business loss, children moving from in-class to online learning, parents juggling work and family life, and financial struggles in an inflated economy.

All these stressors can be extremely overwhelming and can cause a whirl wind of emotions; stress, anxiousness, fear, sadness, frustration, anger and resentment.

If you or anyone find themselves dealing with these emotions and struggle to find a way out, here are some distress tolerance skills or some quick calming strategies you can apply to relieve distress from a 10/10 to a 5 or 6/10 to help you make choices regarding how to respond to emotions rather than react to emotions.

Here are some skills that use reflexes in the body to help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body relax:

TIPP Skills

  1. Temperature
    1. Use cold temperatures to calm down and lower your heart rate rapidly
    2. A cold wet facecloth or a wrapped ice pack applied to forehead and cheeks for 30 seconds
    3. Alternatively, splash cold water on the face
  2. Intense Exercise
    1. Anything that gets the heart rate up for 5-10 minutes to help calm the body when revved up by emotion
    2. Jumping rope, running, putting on music and dancing
  3. Paced Breathing
    1. The out breath (exhale) is longer than the in breath (inhale)
    2. Often counting breaths will help (breathe in for 2, breathe out for 4)
    3. This will pull on the parasympathetic nervous system to take over, do this for 1-2 minutes to bring down your arousal
  4. Progressive muscle relaxation
    1. Tense and relax each muscle group, head to toe
    2. Tense your forehead muscles for 5 seconds, then let go and relax
    3. Notice the tension and notice the difference when relaxed

Butterfly Hug

  1. Wrap arms around chest and slowly tap on either arm while focusing on breathing
  2. By applying gentle pressure on the chest and tapping will help calm you and pull on the parasympathetic nervous system

Grounding with the Senses

  1. Fill a box with items that use the senses, so in times of distress, people have a place to go for these which will help the brain come back to present moment. For example, hand lotion, music, pictures, tea, mints etc.

5-5-5 Technique

  1. Also uses the senses
    1. Focus on 5 things you can see
    2. 4 things you can feel
    3. 3 things you can hear
    4. 2 things you can smell
    5. 1 think you can taste
  2. Another form of this is to list 5 of each sense, then 4, then 3, then 2, then 1

Breathing Exercises

  1. Colour breathing
    1. Visualizing anxious red air going out (exhale) and calming blue air coming in (inhale)
  2. Box breathing
    1. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4, repeat
  3. Counting breaths
    1. Counting breaths in/out in sets of 5, then starting again at 1
    2. This exercise often helps people fall asleep

Calming techniques for children

  1. Blowing bubbles
  2. Making or playing with play dough
  3. Fairy breathing (breathe in all the fairy dust, hold it, breathe out and sprinkle it around the room)
  4. Progressive muscle relaxation

If you are in distress and feeling unsafe, please contact: HERE 24/7 at 1-844-437-3247; the crisis text line by texting HOME to 686868; or go to the nearest emergency department.

Created by Lindsay Long, Mental Health Therapist at the Upper Grand Family Health Team

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