The mind-body connection is a powerful force that we are learning more about every day. So much has been uncovered from studies and neuroscience research that a day is dedicated to it every year. International Mind-Body Wellness Day was created to help raise awareness of how our emotional experiences and inner thoughts have a direct impact on body and physical health. Our memories, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. In other words, our state of mind is directly related to the health of our body, and vice versa. How we care for our bodies—what we eat, how much we exercise or sleep, whether we use drugs or alcohol—can positively or negatively impact our mental health.
Learning how to cope with stressful and even traumatic situations in a healthier way can help us feel stronger, get sick less, and possibly live longer. Our thoughts and emotions affect our ability to focus and stay alert, along with our psychological flexibility, or ability to adapt to situations, and capacity to stay in emotional control.
Distress Tolerance is a concept from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, aimed to create more space between uncomfortable feelings and emotions and our reactions to them, which is a foundation of mindfulness. Learning how to cope and accept what is and isn’t under our control at that moment is an inner tool that anyone can access when feeling dysregulated or overwhelmed by emotions. It helps to more effectively cope with overwhelming emotions and gives us new ways to soften the effects of upsetting situations. Try out these two DBT distress tolerance skills to help develop a healthier mindset the next time you are feeling distressed and overwhelmed…
Ride the wave: Riding the wave is about allowing your emotions to be with you, coming and going like a wave, and being able to get back to a place of calm during moments of feeling overwhelmed by intense emotions. We tend to try to escape or attempt to fix an uncomfortable feeling or situation, so sitting with the discomfort and riding out the wave may seem unnatural. The challenge is accepting our thoughts and managing our emotions to prevent our urges from dictating our behavior. Just as a surfer might experience fear of getting engulfed by a wave as it approaches, we can learn to stand firm and ride through it to get safely back to shore.
Observe and describe: Another tool in creating space between our emotions and actions is to Observe what is happening without adding to the story and Describe just the facts of what is happening without judging. We can say to ourselves, “I’m feeling a lot of anger and having the urge to be self-destructive.” Just doing this can create the space we need to diffuse the power of our urge and allow us to make a more intentional choice for ourselves and be less emotionally reactive in our relationships.
Developing and using these skills during moments of distress can help you grow a healthier mindset, control unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, and strengthen your mind-body connection.
By: Ilise Reznick
Mental Health Counseling Intern