Week 2 of DBT Skills: Overcoming Exhaustion

April 11, 2020

The smallness you feel comes from within you. 

God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes. 

~ The Message Bible 

We started the DBT session with a mindfulness tapping exercise called EFT.  I had never tried "EFT tapping" before but after practicing the "overcoming exhaustion" exercise, I have actually found it to be pretty useful.  The practice is so easy, it seems like magic, but I know it's just another way of validating my emotions, the first step in healing.  Try it yourself.  

We're still in the emotional regulation section of DBT.  Tomorrow is Easter and we talked about how we might ease our stress on this holiday.  The first is by honoring our traditions, for traditions often bring comfort.  I plan to make coffee cake this afternoon, wake up early tomorrow, get dressed up, eat coffee cake for breakfast, and attend church with the people I love. Yes, the church service will be on my computer and technically, I could watch it in my pjs.  However, there is something rejuvenating about honoring a tradition with others, no matter if there is social distancing involved.  I can feel the loving energy of my friends if I let myself breathe deeply for a while.  We also talked about finding comfort by making meaning out of our current reality.  Now, I don't believe that COVID-19 was sent here as a moral lesson to teach us anything, but I do believe that we can choose to find some meaning in it and if we do, then we will feel better.  So.... I am using this time to work on being nonjudgmental and mindful towards myself, to take more walks and enjoy nature more.  I am even using this time to publish a book and open an Etsy store and facilitate more groups at my job.  When I think about wanting to be with people, I feel sad, but when I think of the strengths that I am gaining, I feel energized.  Dialectically, I have to both validate my sadness and validate my joy at the same time.  (That's what dialectic means-accepting two opposing concepts at the same time!)
Our emotions and our thoughts are interwoven together after an event; our thoughts influence our emotions and our emotions influence our thoughts.  If we don't like our emotion, we can try to check the facts and see if the emotion fits the facts.  Usually they do not.  
When we tell ourselves that the outcome is a total catastrophe, we are minimizing our ability to cope. The truth is that we are all extremely resilient people and we are all much more capable then we oftentimes give ourselves credit.  How do we convince ourselves of how much good we can do?  By coping ahead of time.  Imagine handling whatever it is you need to handle well.  Face the threat to see that the threat is not actually as big as you think it is.  Don't get stuck in your "emotion mind," because your emotions will balloon up big and won't fit the facts.  Instead, be in "beginner's mind," and think of the problem as if for the first time, reviewing the facts and coming up with at least five different interpretations.  The more interpretations you come up with, the more you will see that life is not as stuck as you think it is.
I also found this reframing of exhaustion very helpful.  My body's energy often drops throughout the day.  The therapist suggested that I may have started dropping my energy, "checking out," as a coping skill to survive trauma.  If I just go to sleep or disassociate, then I do not have to face whatever I feel is threatening me.  The more I think about the failure, the problem, the conflict, the threat...the more I will feel drained, which will then make me be more vulnerable to act and feel in other ways I do not ideally want.  However, if I validate my emotion and cope ahead, then my energy will rise and I will feel better.  I found this way of thinking very helpful-my low energy isn't bad, it's just an old coping skill that no longer works for me.  I don't want to spend the rest of my life emotionally drained-I want to take charge and live a meaningful life!

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