DBT's TIPP is my favorite skill in distress tolerance. It is to be used as a last resort so it will stay effective in times of crisis and is a major playing in avoiding those annoying hospital trips.
The DBT TIPP Skill is unique because it’s physiological as well as psychological. Did you know that by changing your body's chemistry, you’re able to change your thoughts? This is why it's important to keep in tune with your body. The DBT TIPP skill is one of the best techniques for reducing extreme emotions very quickly. See below to get all the details on what each letter stands for in the TIPP acronym!
T - Temperature:
Sometimes when we are reaching our breaking point, all we need is to distract ourselves safely with extremely cold temperatures. Someone in a state of panic, for instance, can calm down if some ice is placed on the nape of their neck. This is because it changed your body's temperature and your brain starts to process the cold instead of the emotion.
DBT specialist covets this so much that sometimes they keep a bowl of ice in the center of the table during group sessions. I definitely have bought my ice pack. The trick though is to only use this skill when you really need it as the more you use it the less effect it has on you. See it as the last resort. Another way you can benefit from this technique is to emerge your face into a bowl of icy water or bring a zip-locked bag of ice to your face.
When we’re upset, our bodies are even warmer. Splashing your face with cold water, or even letting the car’s AC blow in your face will help you cool down—both physically and emotionally. Anger management coaches teach this as well by suggesting people drink a glass of cold water if they feel like they are ready to fight someone. Your body is very responsive to cooling down.
I – Intense Exercise:
We all know that regular physical activity reduces anxiety and depression. It also can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. Evidence also suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma.
But did you know when you don't exercise all that stored up physical energy can erupt through your emotions? It increases oxygen flow to the brain to cool off stress, and while it distracts you it releases endorphins that will lift your mood. When you are experiencing a crisis just a brief period of intense exercise like a sprint, jogging on the spot, push-ups, jumping squats and jump rope can give the energy another outlet.
Who knows maybe dancers are emotionally blessed. Britney Spears sure claims that her hard-looking musical workouts across the stage free her and is when she most feels at ease.
So try an intense exercise next time you feel upset. You might still not be exactly happy after the sprint but you will be too exhausted to act recklessly.
P – Paced Breathing:
Did you know that when you are emotional your fight and flight response has also been hijacked? Paced breathing is to slow your breathing down and take in big deep breathes to calm down the fight or flight response. Try a bunch of cool breathing exercises or something called boxed breathing. Your nervous system will thank you and you might even become sleepy.
You can do box breathing by yourself by first setting a timer for five minutes. Start off with taking a deep meaningful breath for a count of four through your nose, then hold for a count of four, followed by exhaling through your mouth for a count of 4. Hold again keeping your lungs empty for a count of four then start over. You also want to purse your lips while you exhale so you can really control the even release of the breath over 4 seconds. There are lots of Youtube videos you can use as a guide as well as our own in the future. At first, some people feel light-headed or stressed out by holding their breath but scientifically this is known for decreasing cortisol levels and soothing you emotionally.
I liken this exercise to taking a natural bar of Xanax. It can definitely calm you enough to where your emotional pain is less pronounced and you think more clearly going forward.
P – Paired Muscle Relaxation:
The science of paired muscle relaxation is truly fascinating. Try this technique by focusing on a group of muscles, such as the muscles in your arms. Tighten the muscles as much as you can for five seconds, clenching your hands into a tight fist. Then let it go lax like a sodden noodle. Your fingers should naturally spread. Imagine your muscles melting. When you do this technique, the muscle will become more relaxed than it was before it was tightened and when your muscles relax, you'll begin to relax as well.
What's more, relaxed muscles require less oxygen, so your breathing and heart rate will slow down. After you've focused on voluntarily tightening and releasing the muscles in your arms you can work on the glutes and then your legs. This works so well in calming emotions and quieting the mind that hypnotherapists sometimes include it in their sessions.
Get a mat or get somewhere where you can sit or lay comfortably. If you can play meditative or calming music put it on. Taking what you learned about TIPP, choose either paced breathing or paired muscle relaxation. I love them both so I do both whenever I find the time. With paced breathing, you can try box breathing. Remember you achieve box breathing by breathing in through your nose for a count of 4, hold for four seconds, followed by breathing out through your mouth for 4 seconds. Hold again, keeping your lungs empty then repeat.
Notice the way you feel and do it until you feel satisfied. For some of you, using an instructional video can help you to focus on the breathing pattern until boxed breathing comes more naturally. Notice the way you feel afterward.
Finally, for paired muscle relaxation, start with your upper body. Focus on tightening the muscles in your arms and hands as best you can for five seconds. Then let go of the tension. Let the muscles relax, and try this same technique for your butt, thighs, and legs. Make sure you leave in the comments about how these skills made you feel or if you're going to use them in the future.