Emotional & Overwhelmed? How DBT Can Help

There will be times when you feel overwhelmed by emotion. The stress and the anxiety pile up and, for a spell, you’re certain you can manage it. This is a daunting experience but also inevitable. You may be tempted to wish it would never happen. A more productive strategy is to prepare yourself.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is an approach designed to teach you the skills you need to persevere. DBT features crisis survival skills. Adopting these techniques is an effective way to navigate life’s ups and downs. To follow, we will examine a few such tactics in detail.

1. Emotional Regulation

This is the name of the game. If you can regulate your emotions in times of distress, you will dramatically improve the quality of your life. Here are some exercises to try:

Plan Positive Activities

Don’t leave it to chance. Keep a schedule that always includes upbeat daily moments. Start each day with positive statements about yourself.


When you’re stressed, you may have some standard reactions in the name of sooting yourself. Pick certain days where you do the opposite. See how it feels to try something new.


Keep track of your emotions. Write in your journal about what set you off, how you felt, and how you responded.


When you feel the anger or frustration or anxiety rising, talk to it. Give it a name. Ask it if possibly — just possibly — it’s overreacting.

2. Mindfulness

It’s a word that has become trendy of late. Don’t let that diminish its value in your life. Put simply, to be mindful is to stay in the moment. Regret and guilt dwell in the past. The future is where anxiety awaits. Reality is right here and right now: the present.

To gain a sense of what this means, try making lists in your head of things you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. To get more specific, choose what you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste, e.g.

  • Vision: Go through an album of photos on your phone that take you back to a pleasant memory.
  • Hearing: Play a favorite song. Choose to focus on one thing — whether it be the lyrics, the bass line, or whatever catches your ear.
  • Smell: Aromatherapy is an ideal starting point.
  • Touch: Do you have a pet? If so, this might be snuggling time.
  • Taste: What flavors relax you? Keep them around and accessible.

3. Distress Tolerance

As the words imply, this involves you increasing your ability to deal with life’s inevitable stress. How is that possible? One way is called “radical acceptance.” We simply accept that everyone’s life involves rough patches. We are no different. Sometimes, the best course of action is to endure. All the while, take care of yourself and pay attention to your reactions.

Other DBT skills come from the acronym, ACCEPTS. The goal? Healthy and effective distraction:

  • Activities: Do something for yourself.
  • Contributing: Do something for someone else
  • Comparisons: Recognize how much better you have it than others in comparison
  • Emotions: Provoke a different emotion to distract you from your negative feelings
  • Pushing away: Refuse to wallow in the discomfort.
  • Thoughts: Do something challenging but mindless like a crossword puzzle to shift your focus
  • Sensations: Overwhelm the negative sensations with a stronger sensation, e.g. loud music, strong mint, etc.

We offer treatment in both our Lakewood & Longmont offices

There are plenty more DBT skills to consider and learn from. The best way to expose yourself to these healing techniques is to meet with a DBT therapist. I’d love to introduce you to these concepts and guide you to a calmer, less overwhelmed way of life.  please read more about anxiety counseling and reach out for a safe, confidential consultation today.  Take the first step, when you are ready to contact us, we invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our website. Right now, because of COVID-19, we offer both in-person and online counseling. We’re open to whichever option you feel more comfortable with.  We look forward to hearing from you!