🤔Distress tolerance skills vs emotional regulation🤔
Distress tolerance and emotion regulation are terms which are used a lot in therapy but can feel quite confusing!
What is distress tolerance?
Distress tolerance is the ability to deal with difficult situations and cope with pain in the moment. Often distress tolerance skills are useful just to get us through the next few seconds or minutes when we’re experiencing difficult emotions – they’re not necessarily long term solutions!
Making a cup of tea when you’re feeling overwhelmed is a classic example of an activity which might give you a minute to cool off and find space to think more clearly. But things like making a cuppa or having a bath aren’t going to resolve ongoing mental health difficulties! What actions like that CAN do is help you to get through the initial emotional distress enough so that you feel able to think rationally about what the most useful thing to do is.
What is emotion regulation?
ER is our ability to manage and respond to our emotional experiences. We all have strategies which we use to regulate our emotions. Some are healthy, such as going for a walk when we’re feeling stressed or talking things over with a friend – others might be unhelpful such as avoidance, aggression or self-harm.
Developing healthy, long term ER strategies allows us to build emotional resilience, meaning we become overwhelmed less frequently – so they work in a preventative way! The best thing we can do is develop a toolbox of as many helpful ER techniques as possible so we feel well equipped to manage the challenges of life.