Managing emotional distress is crucial, particularly during stress-laden periods like the holiday season. From embracing radical acceptance to cultivating self-soothing skills, various strategies can alleviate the burdens of stress. Emotional overwhelm often stems from sources such as workplace anxiety, family conflicts, or lingering fears of abandonment. As the holiday season brings its own set of challenges, including probing questions from family members, practicing distress tolerance becomes invaluable.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), with its emphasis on distress tolerance, proves beneficial for individuals grappling with frequent emotional distress. By integrating mindfulness, self-soothing techniques, and building a support system, individuals can navigate these challenging emotions effectively, fostering a sense of resilience and well-being during trying times.

Distress tolerance:

Distress tolerance, as explained by psychologist Bec McWilliam, refers to an individual’s capacity to assert control over their responses, reactions, words, and actions during periods of intense anxiety and stress. Those with effective distress tolerance skills possess the ability to navigate challenging situations without succumbing to impulsive or regrettable behaviors. Essentially, individuals with high distress tolerance can maintain composure, make thoughtful decisions, and self-soothe in the face of adversity. On the contrary, individuals with low distress tolerance may struggle to manage themselves during stressful circumstances, potentially leading to impulsive or emotionally charged reactions that they may later regret. Developing distress tolerance is crucial for emotional regulation and resilience in the face of life’s difficulties.

Here are a few strategies, including elements from DBT, that individuals can consider  reduceind emotional distress:

1. Radical Acceptance:

  • Practice accepting the present moment without judgment. Acknowledge that certain situations are beyond your control.
  • Instead of fighting against reality, work on accepting it as it is, even if it’s challenging.

2. Mindfulness Meditation:

  • Engage in mindfulness meditation to stay present and cultivate a non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts and feelings.
  • Mindfulness exercises can help ground you in the current moment, reducing the impact of past experiences or future anxieties.

3. Self-Soothing Skills:

  • Identify activities or practices that bring you comfort and calmness. This could include listening to music, taking a warm bath, or spending time in nature.
  • Creating a “self-soothe kit” with items that provide comfort can be a tangible way to manage distress.

4. Deep Breathing Exercises:

  • Practice deep breathing exercises to activate the body’s relaxation response. This can include diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing.
  • Focusing on your breath can help regulate emotions and reduce the intensity of distressing feelings.

5. Build a Support System:

  • Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for support. Sharing your feelings and experiences can provide relief.
  • Building a strong support system is essential for managing emotional distress, especially during challenging times.

6. Positive Self-Talk:

  • Challenge negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Replace self-critical or anxious thoughts with more balanced and positive perspectives.
  • Develop a habit of acknowledging your strengths and achievements.

7. Set Boundaries:

  • Establish clear boundaries to protect your well-being. Learn to say no when necessary and prioritize self-care.
  • Recognize when you need to step back from challenging situations to maintain emotional balance.

8. Distraction Techniques:

  • Engage in activities that shift your focus away from distressing thoughts. This could include hobbies, reading, or watching a movie.
  • Distracting yourself temporarily can provide a break from intense emotions.

Remember that these strategies may not be one-size-fits-all, and it’s essential to explore what works best for you. Seeking professional guidance, such as through DBT therapy or counseling, can provide personalized strategies for managing emotional distress.


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a health advice. We would ask you to consult a qualified professional or medical expert to gain additional knowledge before you choose to consume any product or perform any exercise.

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