Relax? Haha...okay! Let's try this instead!

Has anyone ever told you before to relax and you instantly felt the urge to throat punch them? Yep, me too.

They think they are being helpful — they see someone in distress and they know as well as we do that tensing our bodies, ruminating on thoughts and shallow, fast breathing isn’t helpful…AND, they don’t seem to understand that it doesn’t feel like it is a choice or switch we can just turn on and off. It feels like something happening to us rather than something we can control.

Anxiety is a bitch. It truly is. And when anxiety and distress show up, they activate our fear-brain (referred to in my last blog post) which shuts off all of our executive control and function.

But, for any of us who have been there, we all know that these thoughts, feelings and behaviors can consume us if we don;t figure out some way to shut it down and get our brain off of this hell-ridden ride.

So, what can we do? This is where I love the skills taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). They are designed to help us get out of that irrational, emotional headspace and help us regain that sense of control both mentally and physically. My favorite? It’s called TIPP and is a tool that involves taking 4 steps to help get your body counter the physiological effects of anxiety and distress.

<<<——— Here is the main handout which includes each of those 4 skills with a little write-up of what to do at each step, some examples and the “why” behind doing each of these pieces. The tool is designed to take you about 15-20 minutes to walk through everything and to begin to notice that “come down” effect.

Now, you will notice there are 2 forms here…why?

Well, as many of you know, my specialty in therapy is working with people with eating disorders, body image distress and disordered eating. Anyone notice anything from the first sheet that could potentially be triggering or inappropriate for someone working on their recovery?

Yep, the “I” or “Increased Exercise” would not be a good fit. So, instead, I decided to make my own adapted version of TIPP — TCPP where the “I” becomes a “C”, meaning Change Your Scenery.

Who should use this version?

Anyone who has an eating disorder or is working on/in recovery, has severe body image distress or disordered eating, has any physical mobility limitations or someone who responds more to visual cues and changes rather than internal cues. And for those of you not mentioned above, if you try them both and like the second one better, do that one! It is just about finding what works best for you!

But I have tried this before and it didn’t work?

(or for some of you, you will try it and when it does not work immediately you will do what I would likely do which is call the skill stupid and walk away)

So, let’s talk through a few of the barriers and possibilities behind that feeling or thought:

You didn’t give it enough time. Well, like anything we do, it takes time and practice to hone in and develop a skill like this. You have to be willing to try something more than once before you decide

You rushed through it. I have definitely done this before when learning new skills. I get antsy or annoyed and I just want a quick fix. And to be fair, our culture really promotes that within us - we are so used to instant gratification that having to work at something like this can feel overwhelming. AND, if you rush it, it will truly be a waste of your time. Slow your brain down. Be kind to yourself when you feel the urge to rush through it and then let that go.

You created a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we have already determined something will suck, won’t work or is going to be shitty, chances are, it will be. Why? Because we create a self-fulfilling prophecy and we actively contribute to making it so. In this instance, what is the worst that would happen if you believed it could work? You waste 20 minutes? Exactly - you all know you have done that with way less helpful things like watching stupid shit on Netflix or going down a YouTube rabbit hole.

You were at too high of a distress level. There is something called a Subjective Unit of Distress (see my Subjective Unites of Distress Scale Worksheet) that helps you understand how you rate your pain, anxiety, distress, etc and how you can recognize it physically, mentally and emotionally as well as what coping skills will support you at that time. TIPP is one of thousands of coping skills. It is highly effective AND not at all levels of distress. So perhaps, you have to check in with how your different levels of distress show up and match where and how TIPP/TCPP can be best applied to your needs.

It really doesn’t work for you. And that is okay! If you have exhausted the other possibilities and it does not work, then move on!

Alright, enough talk — time to do the work. Download the worksheets by clicking on the images above and try using this tool the next time you are at work and your coworker says something stupid or when you get anxious at night when you hear a sound in your house.

As always, I owuld love to hear from you about how it works for you and any “aha” moments that come up from it! And if I can be of any additional support, let me know!