- Distress intolerance refers to a perceived inability to fully experience unpleasant emotions.
- It is linked to a fear of experiencing negative emotion.
- Distress intolerance can occur for both high and low intensity emotions.
WHAT IS DISTRESS INTOLERANCE?
EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES TO TOLERATE DISTRESS:
Getting angry in response to a situation that is upsetting prevents you from seeing what is really happening. Intense emotions have a way of blinding us from the reality of the situation, which only allows the emotions to escalate.
Acceptance means being willing to experience a situation as it is, rather than how we want it to be. It is about acknowledging the present moment (no matter what it is) without judging the events as good or bad.
Accepting distress is not about having to like emotional discomfort, or being resigned to feeling miserable, or wallowing in negative emotions. Rather, accepting distress is about seeing the negative emotions for what it is, and changing how you pay attention to emotion. Reacting in an accepting way towards your emotion, often changes the effect the emotion has on you.
AVOID SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOURS
Engaging in self-destructive behaviours often brings temporary relief from emotional pain. The most common ways of doing this would be by using alcohol or drugs to escape emotional discomfort. Binge eating is also a common way to alleviate distress. Excessive sleep can also be used in an unhelpful way to zone out from and escape unpleasant emotions.
These types of behaviours can serve as distractions from whatever emotional pain we may be feeling. In the long-term, self-destructive behaviours like binge drinking, drug use, and emotional eating, make our emotions worse and prolong the challenges we are facing by distancing us from healthier ways of coping.
RELAX & SOOTHE YOURSELF
REDISCOVER YOUR VALUES
LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
No matter what you do, it is always now. No matter how much you would like to go back in time to fix something that went wrong or blame someone who hurt you, it is impossible. The desire to live in the past or in the future creates suffering. All of the time spent dwelling in the past or focusing on the future results in something tragic: missing out on life. It is happening right now – all around you.
Focus on the present moment by drawing your attention to anything sensory, a particular task you are doing, a sound, taste, smell, sight, or feeling of touch you may not have realised you were experiencing that you can now tune into.
SELF-AFFIRMING STATEMENT & COPING THOUGHTS
A large part of learning how to tolerate distress involves having a strong foundation of yourself as a healthy capable person. You must believe in yourself first. Behind intense sadness, rage, and despair there is a caring, loving, and strong person who is capable of handling intense negative situations in a healthier way.
Using positive statements can help us develop a new attitude to ourselves and our situations. Use a statement that starts with “I” and use the present tense, such as “I am strong” or “I am a good and worthwhile person”.
It is helpful to hear encouraging words during times of intense emotional distress. Sometimes a supportive friend or partner is not around to provide us with the emotional support and comfort that we may desire. In these times, we must be capable of providing ourselves with this comfort. Coping thoughts consist of reminders of times when you’ve been strong in the past and words that give you strength. “I am strong enough to handle what happening to me right now”.