Reducing Vulnerability to Emotions
We use DBT* with some of our eating disorder clients to help them better regulate their emotions. We teach the acronym P.L.E.A.S.E. to help them remember certain guidelines for reducing their vulnerability to negative emotions. We are all more prone to emotional reactivity when we’re under stress. So, PLEASE, be mindful of these guidelines to have a better chance of managing stressors effectively!
Tend to yourself. If you are physically unwell, be especially mindful. This might mean resting, taking your medication as prescribed, or seeing a doctor. When you are in a physically vulnerable state, it is natural to want to avoid feeling pain or discomfort by turning to old, faithful go-to measures for self-soothing (like bingeing, purging, or restricting). That’s why it is so important at these times to take extra good care of yourself and operate with heightened awareness of your vulnerability.
Eat regularly. Irregular eating impacts your blood sugar levels, your digestion, and a whole host of body systems that, in turn, makes it harder to think clearly and manage your emotions. “Hangry” (hungry + angry) is even in the dictionary now—meaning “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.” Consistent, balanced nutrition benefits mood, focus, and the ability to navigate life’s stressors more effectively.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. When your mood and thought processes are altered, it impacts your ability to make thoughtful decisions and makes it harder to resist impulses. Now, this isn’t a blanket statement saying you should never have a glass of wine etc., however, if being under the influence of a substance makes it more likely that you’ll engage in behaviors you’ll regret, then it’s worth considering their use. Mood-altering substances can also include caffeine; consider your caffeine intake if have high anxiety or difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Structure your sleep. Figure out how much sleep you need to feel rested. Try to sleep according to a consistent schedule even on your days off. Studies show that not getting enough sleep actually lowers your cognitive abilities. If you have sleep difficulties (either too little or too much), try creating a sleep schedule with rituals like turning down the lights early, getting off technology, taking a warm bath, doing progressive muscle relaxation etc. Consult with a medical professional if the quality of your sleep is impacting your day to day life.
Exercise regularly. That doesn’t mean intensely or for a long time, it just means moving your body. Exercise can be stretching, walking the dog, cleaning your home, or playing ball with a friend. Consult your doctor if you have special health considerations.
*Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to help people effectively regulate emotions and behaviors. At Columbus Park we use DBT for eating disorders to help our clients develop a host of skills for coping.