I can’t focus. So here is another DBT distress tolerance skill. Perfect one to practice right now.
Distress Tolerance, crisis survival.
This relates to improve the moment, R: relaxation. These are some exercises to focus on breathing which will help distract from the emotions and give you proper oxygen. When we are upset and stressed, our breathing becomes irregular which only adds to the stress. Try these exercises to calm down.
As a side note, these are nearly direct (a little shortened) copies from Marsha Linehan’s book, my other entries have been a combo of notes and the text.
I. Deep Breathing
Lay on your back. Breathe gently and evenly. Focus your attention on the movement of your stomach. When you breathe in, allow your stomach to raise to fill the base of your lungs. As the upper lungs fill, your chest rises and your stomach lowers. Don’t tire yourself. Do 10x. Exhale longer than inhale.
II. Measuring Your Breath By Your Footsteps
Walk slowly down a path. Breathe normally. Determine how many footsteps it takes for inhalation and exhalation. Continue for a few mins. Begin to lengthen your exhalation by one step. Do not force longer inhalation. Let it come naturally. Watch your inhalation carefully to see if there is desire to extend it. Do 10x
Now lengthen the exhalation by one more footstep. Observe if the length of inhalation extends an extra step or not. Only lengthen if you feel it giving you release. Do 20x, then return breathing to normal pace. Rest for five mins, then you can practice again. If you get a bit tired, stop and regulate to normal breathing. After several sessions your breathing inhale to exhale ratio should grow equal. Do not practice more than 10-20 breathes without returning your breathing to normal in-between.
III. Counting Your Breath
Sit cross-legged on the floor, (or half/full lotus position), kneel, sit in a chair with feet evenly on the floor, lay flat, or take a walk. Count your breaths and say to yourself “I am inhaling” and “I am exhaling” when your body breathes. Push all other thoughts out of your mind, just focus on the breathing and counting each inhalation/exhalation. Do 10x, if you get distracted and lose count, start over from 1.
-I find this one to be the easiest to practice and most practiced in group sessions. You can practice this one nearly anywhere. I find it very useful when I’m in transit and my thoughts start to wander, this helps me focus and stay calm.
IV. Follow Your Breath To Music
Listen to music and breath long, light and evenly. Follow and be aware of your breaths while remaining aware of the music. Do not get lost in the music, try to be a master of your breathing.
V. Follow Your Breath During A Conversation
Same as the music exercise above. Follow and be aware of your breath while listening to your friend and while giving your responses.
VI. Following The Breath
Sit cross-legged on the floor, (or half/full lotus position), kneel, sit in a chair with feet evenly on the floor, lay flat, or take a walk. Begin by inhaling gently and normally from your stomach. Think to yourself, “I am exhaling normally”, do 3x and on the 4th, extend the inhalation and say (in your head), “I am breathing in a long inhalation.” Exhale with the same awareness, “I am breathing out a long exhalation,” do 3x.
Follow your breath, being aware of the movement in your stomach and lungs. Follow the entrance and exit of the air. Be aware, “I am inhaling and following the inhalation from it’s beginning to it’s end.” Do 20x, then return to normal breathing. Wait 5 mins before repeating. Maintain a half-smile while breathing. (Half-smile exercises covered in next DBT post.)
VII. Breathing To Quiet The Body And Mind
This is one of the harder breathing skills, try mastering I-VI if you find this one too difficult. Sit cross-legged on the floor, (or half/full lotus position), kneel, sit in a chair with feet evenly on the floor, lay flat, or take a walk. Half smile. Follow your breath. When your mind and body are quiet, inhale and exhale very lightly. Be aware, “I am breathing in and making the breath and body light and peaceful. I am exhaling and making the breath and body light and peaceful.” Do 3x, give thought, “I am breathing in while my body and mind are at peace. I am breathing out while my body and mind are at peace.”
Maintain this thought awareness for 5-30 mins according to your ability and time available. The entire exercise should be relaxed and gentle, it may be helpful to use an above breathing skill first. When you stop, gently massage the muscles in your legs and pause before getting up.