What to do in stressful time
Tahoe Youth & Family Services
There are times in life when we all face crisis situations or when stress of everyday life becomes overwhelming and unmanageable. This can be due to job pressures or job loss, relationship struggles, death, divorce, or any major life changes. Whatever the circumstance the emotions that carry with it can be painful, overpowering, and stressful. They often create unwanted physical sensations and arousals, and effect daily living and coping skills. Without the ability to appropriately cope with these difficult emotions, our actions and behaviors are often impacted as we try to resolve the intense pressure as quickly as possible. This can result in impulsive behaviors and destructive ways of coping such as alcohol and drug use. Although this provides temporary relief, it might create further problems and it doesn’t eliminate the original concern or provide lasting results to reduce the distress.
You might ask yourself; How do I get through this situational crisis without making things worse? In the counseling world there are coping skills that are called distress tolerance skills. They can be extremely helpful in crisis situations. Distress tolerance means an individual’s ability to manage and cope with painful emotions also called emotional distress. This distress can be actual distress or often perceived distress. When you are going through a situation or circumstance that cannot be immediately changed and cause suffering, distress tolerance skills can be significantly helpful. They won’t necessarily eliminate the emotional pain but will help you tolerate it better. Learning distress tolerance techniques will also help prevent further actions that might escalate your emotions and increase the stress of the situation.
There are several distress tolerance coping skills. Many have acronyms that make it easy to remember the skills. One technique is STOP.
S- Stop. Literally Stop. Take a moment before moving forward and reacting. This will help you stay in control of your emotions and allow time for processing what is going on in your thoughts and emotions before acting.
T-Take a Step Back. By removing yourself from the situation/ crisis, it will allow you time to calm yourself down and help let go. This is a great time to take some deep breaths and grab hold of your emotions.
O-Observe. Take a look around you. How are you feeling? What are you thinking? Notice any body sensations and triggers. Is there someone else involved in the crisis? What are they saying and doing?
P- Proceed Mindfully. Moving forward be mindful and aware. Consider all aspects of the situation. Be mindful of how you and others are feeling. Take actions that are mindful of your goals and will prevent the situation from escalating.
There are other distress tolerance techniques that can be helpful in crisis situations and when under emotional distress, such as distraction techniques (ACCEPTS), and self- soothing techniques which focuses on sensory activation (sight, smell, taste, touch).
If you would like to learn more or about distress tolerance skills or to receive individual and/ or family counseling services, contact Tahoe Youth & Family Services at (775) 782-4202 or (530) 541-2445.
Karen Carey is executive director of Tahoe Youth & Family Services.