Eating Disorders and Stress: DBT Coping Skills for the Holidays

Eating Disorders and Stress: DBT Coping Skills for the Holidays

Eating disorders and stress tend to “feed each other.” Let’s be honest about that. This is often a triggering and stressful time of year; the holidays are rapidly approaching, the change in seasons can be tough, and it’s getting dark earlier. This particular year may be even more stressful due to the recent election, no matter what your political affiliation may be. It is very important that we pay attention to stress and try to prevent it from becoming too overwhelming. DBT can help you! DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The word “dialectical” is defined as, “concerned with or acting through opposing forces.” This can mean that there are often two truths, or more than one truth in any given situation. If you live in Colorado you may have noticed that in mid- November the temperature was in the 70s! The holiday season can often bring on a dialectical feel: on one hand it is a time of togetherness and celebration, on the other hand it can feel isolating or lonely. There are mixed messages around food and holiday eating, too. We are surrounded with sweets and other decadent foods, yet our culture expects us to “be healthy.” This all adds to eating disorders and stress. Using the Distress Tolerance and Mindfulness modules of DBT can be very effective for combatting eating disorders and stress. If you need immediate relief and want to improve a moment follow these steps. Think of the acronym IMPROVE to help guide you. I: Use IMAGERY. You can do this by imagining a relaxing scene – either a place you have been, or create a beautiful scene in your...
DBT Group Denver: Eating Disorders Prevention

DBT Group Denver: Eating Disorders Prevention

DBT Group Denver: Using DBT Skills to Help Prevent Disordered Eating Behavior Have you been wanting to change your relationship with food, but feel stuck or hopeless? In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I wanted to assist people to find more freedom in their relationship with food by using simple DBT (Dialectal Behavior Therapy) skills. Many people cope with stress and difficulties in life by turning to food as a coping mechanism. Some people may do this by binge eating, purging, or restricting foods. Many people engage in emotional eating as a way to numb their feelings, be able to feel something else instead of emotional pain or as a way to punish themselves. Does this help you get to a place in which you feel happy? Maybe for a few minutes tops. Then it becomes a dark and lonely place, most often worse off than when you started. Instead of suffering, choose compassion for yourself by using DBT Skills, an easy way to take care of your body, mind and emotions! The first two components of DBT are Distress Tolerance and Mindfulness. Distress Tolerance is as simple as it sounds – finding new ways to tolerate stress that are healthy and safe – not detrimental to your physical and emotional health. Instead of turning towards or away from food to cope with life stressors pick an area in which to distract yourself. Here are a few ways to do this. First, distract yourself with a pleasurable activity. Below are a few suggestions: Go for a walk Go to a movie Read a new juicy book Do online...
DBT Skills for Eating Disorders

DBT Skills for Eating Disorders

DBT Skills for Eating Disorders: Distress Tolerance If you struggle with eating disorders, then you can likely relate to the concept of “distress.” But have you heard of “distress tolerance” – and wondered what this actually means? Is it simply a way to tolerate stressful situations or events? Maybe it describes tools for coping with tough relationships? The answer includes all of the above. At some point in life, everyone goes through painful circumstances – including physical pain such as illness or injury, or emotional pain such as anxiety or depression. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) focuses heavily on teaching people to be able to cope with painful stressors in life in appropriate and healthy ways. There are several unhealthy ways to cope with stress which include various addictions such as eating disorders, drugs and/or alcohol, gambling, shopping, sex/love, or self -harm. DBT teaches that there are many other ways to deal with pain in a way that will promote healing and growth. There is a very basic formula for handling stress and pain: DISTRACT, RELAX, COPE. When you feel stress coming on or find yourself in a tough situation, you can follow this simple formula and move through the hardship quicker than if you ignore it or try to cope in an unhealthy manner, as listed above. DISTRACT: The first step is to find ways in which to distract yourself so that you are not engulfed in difficult feelings. There are many things you can do! Find a pleasurable activity, such as: watching a movie, taking a walk, reading, calling a friend, going for a drive, exercising, writing in a journal, gardening, listening to music, dancing,...
DBT Group Denver – Mindfulness Tip

DBT Group Denver – Mindfulness Tip

DBT Group Denver – Mindfulness Tip Do you ever feel like you are going on auto pilot? Maybe you are “going through the motions” in your daily life. Perhaps you are expected to multi-task but you struggle completing things. Give yourself permission to SLOW DOWN! This is the first step in being mindful! Yes, it’s as easy as that…. Another way to start being mindful is to pay attention to your breath. You may have heard that before – and yes, it’s as simple as that! Take a few moments right now, and JUST BREATHE. To be mindful, simply NOTICE your breath. Don’t try to force or change your breath, just notice it. Notice your inhale, and your exhale. Notice the pace of your breath. Notice the depth of your breath. Stop reading for a moment right now, and JUST BREATHE. Notice the way your body feels as you pay attention to your breath. Hopefully you will feel more relaxed, that way you are better able to pay attention to your surroundings, be present and MINDFUL! Another helpful way to practice mindful breathing is through “square breathing”. Count to 4 as you inhale, then hold your breath for 4 counts, finally exhale for 4 counts. Repeat. It’s called “square breathing” because you can imagine drawing the four edges of a square in your mind as you count to 4. Or, some people like to trace the shape of a square on their leg as they count. Repeat again as many times as you would like. Breathing is just one way to practice mindfulness. My clients report that it is the EASIEST way to be...

EDIT Principle #3: Express Your Self

Try this Healthy Coping Skill for Stress: Check-In and Breathe! Stressful situations are a part of life.  You can’t change those situations, but you can change how you react to them.  Be aware of your stress levels throughout the day, and rate them on a scale of 0-10, where 0 is no stress and 10 is extreme stress.  Low to moderate stress levels (2-6) can actually be a good thing, because this can enhance motivation and improve productivity.  High stress levels (7-10) can be overwhelming, which triggers the desire to eat as a means to self-soothe.  Certain foods can actually produce changes in certain neurotransmitters in your brain, to create a calming effect.  But there are other things you can try instead, which will have the same calming effect.  The simplest is a breathing technique.  It only takes two minutes (which is less time than it would take for you to run to the vending machine and eat a treat)! Here’s how it works.  Find a place where you can be undisturbed for two minutes, and close your eyes.  Focus only of your breathing.  Notice how shallow or deep your inhales and exhales are.  Notice how your body moves with each inhale and exhale.  If your mind drifts, gently pull yourself back to your breath.  Think silently the word “calm” as you breathe in, and “peace” as you release your breath. Notice any tension in your body, and breathe into that area of your body, allowing yourself to relax.  Keep breathing consciously for a full two minutes (or more, if you want).  When you open your eyes, how do you...