Exploring the Connection between Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Using DBT Skills
Self-care is a popular buzzphrase these days. But what does it really mean, and how do we do it? Oxford Reference defines self-care as “the practice of activities that are necessary to sustain life and health, normally initiated and carried out by the individual for him or herself.” In other words, self-care means taking a proactive role in doing activities that will keep us healthy.
Our body, mind, and spirit are interconnected. However, we often compartmentalize and treat them separately. When this happens, we neglect parts of ourselves. Disconnection occurs within us and produces imbalance and sickness. Often, we will experience stress, which triggers physical illness. Consequently, we may have an emotional response. At first glance, we may think mental illness symptoms are surfacing, but it could just be that the body is unwell.
Learning about the connection between the physical body and emotional wellbeing can aid in the regular practice of self-care. A few years ago, I was introduced to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which taught me how to manage my major depression symptoms. During Dialectical Behavior Therapy, I learned skills connected to mindfulness and a powerful emotional regulation skill called “PLEASE Master.”
Mindfulness is a core tenet taught in DBT skills training. Practicing mindfulness of our physical body in connection with our emotional wellbeing can guide us during times of distress. After one week of learning and practicing these skills in class, I found myself automatically applying what I learned in my everyday life. My mind started shifting, and I felt as if my brain was being reprogrammed.
Emotional regulation is another significant component of DBT training, which helps people manage their mood disorders in more positive and effective ways. There are several modules on emotional regulation, but I will only focus on PLEASE Master in this article.
“PLEASE Master” is an acronym that describes six practical tips to help people manage their physical bodies and emotional wellbeing by referring to the following self-care checklist:
- P & L: Treat Physical iLLness. Did you take your supplements or daily medications? How we start our day will determine the trajectory of the rest of the day. Please take your prescribed medications and supplements that support your body and keep you well. If you are feeling sick, ask your body what it needs today to feel well. Listen carefully. Your body may tell you it needs more water, more rest, or a bowl of soup. If you need to visit the doctor, don’t delay. Please make an appointment ASAP.
- E: Eat Nutritious Meals. Did you eat today? Did you give your body healthy food? Did you drink water? The types of foods we eat tremendously affect our mood and energy levels. Be mindful of too much caffeine, sugar, and highly processed foods. We’ve all heard the adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Try to add more fruits and veggies to your daily diet. Take care of your body, and it will take care of you because our bodies are dynamic self-healing organisms.
- A: Avoid Mood–Altering Drugs. Drugs and alcohol impair judgment and alter the ability to manage emotions effectively. Most often, these substances will intensify negative emotions or temporarily cause an elusive state of euphoria. Many people take mood-altering substances because they are looking for a way to feel better. However, finding healthier ways to meet and tend to emotional needs leads to long-term “feel good” emotions instead of temporary fixes.
- S: Get Sufficient Sleep. Find your perfect sleep amount. Make sleep hygiene a priority in your daily life. Did you get enough hours of sleep last night? Did you oversleep? Experts recommend practicing consistent sleep patterns. For example, each person has a different number of hours that his or her body needs to feel rested and restored. Experiment and see how many nighttime hours your body needs to feel rested each day. Make an effort to get the same amount of sleep hours each night, even on the weekends. In addition, shutting off stimulating devices at least one hour before bedtime will calm our bodies so that we can transition to sleep mode.
- E: Exercise consistently. Aim for 20-30 minutes each day. However, if you only have 10 minutes, then do that. The goal is to move consistently. Physical activity offers so many health benefits. Most importantly, moving our bodies helps to naturally activate those feel good endorphins. Start off slow and then increase the intensity with activities like brisk walking outdoors or jogging. Fresh air and sunshine are naturally therapeutic. The vitamin D we receive from the sun is vital for our bodies.
- Building MASTERY is the final component of the “PLEASE Master” skill set. Each day, do one thing that makes you feel accomplished and confident. Building mastery means that we commit to daily activities that bring us a sense of accomplishment, joy, and confidence. When you complete one simple task, especially one you’ve been putting off, you will instantly feel good. It’s a small win, but it makes a big mental impact. In addition, spending time with friends or exploring a hobby can help bring joy into your life.
Action is the key! It’s imperative to practice what we have learned. Recently, as I moved through some physical and emotional discomfort, DBT skills came to my rescue. I used the checklist to evaluate why I was feeling low. I examined my “Physical Illness” by reviewing my symptoms, mood chart, and triggers (apps on my phone). I realized that I had recently missed my regular exercise, and my sleep cycle had been disrupted for several days. I pulled a few all-nighters, which threw off my sleep cycle. Furthermore, I was suffering from a cold.
As a result of determining the triggers of my physical illness, I understood the reason for my emotional distress. So, I got into “radical action” (another DBT term) to support myself. I took several immune-boosting foods and allowed myself to rest a little longer than usual. I started to get back on track with my sleep routine. After about two days, I felt my body recovering. Retracing all of these steps helped me be patient with myself, less judgmental of my low energy and moodiness. I allowed myself to rest, which was what my body was asking for. In addition, I mustered the energy to prepare a few quick, homemade meals for myself. There was no one around to make soup for me. So, I cooked it for myself, and that is self-care and self-love.
Practicing mindfulness and learning strategies to implement immediately to relieve physical and emotional distress has been transformational. Through DBT mindfulness practices and “PLEASE Master” skills, I have learned to self-soothe in healthy ways by becoming self-reliant. Self-care takes effort, but it’s worth it. The ancient adage “Know Thyself” still rings true. Be mindful and be well.
Peace & Blessings,
About the Author: Kim DeHaarte enjoys writing and sharing information that will help inspire and encourage people as they navigate their healing journey. She aspires to be a vessel to spread love, hope and healing. Kim is a loving mother to a teenage son, who she affectionately calls her “little Buddha” teacher. Kim is a plant-based/vegan foodie and chocoholic. She loves being outdoors, soaking up sun rays in sunny Florida. You may catch her gardening, jogging at the park, or meditating on the beach.
Resources & Sources used for this article:
- DBT Tools: https://dbt.tools/emotional_regulation/abc-please.php
- Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) https://www.verywellmind.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy-1067402
- Tips for Better Sleep: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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