Who are your monsters?
We all have our monsters and they don’t just come out on Halloween. Our monsters are our unwanted emotions that disrupt our lives sometimes. I don’t know about you all, but my spookiest monster’s fear and anger love to come out when I am tired or hungry. When I accidentally unleash them without regulating them, they can wreak havoc on my self-esteem, self-respect, and relationships while simultaneously summoning monsters out of my loved ones. Some of us experiencing chronic anxiety or depression, may feel like our monster is always out or maybe you even start to feel like you have become the monster. If that sounds like you, then it is even more important that you equip yourself with our kick-ass monster weapons also known as our ABC PLEASE skills, used for reducing emotional vulnerability. When you maintain these skills, it allows you to have a fighting chance against your monsters!
Before we start…yes you can do this and yes this will take hard work! Below are our ABC PLEASE skills broken down and explained:
SKILL 1: Accumulating Positive Emotions (in the short-term)
Think of this like you are building an emotional wall between you and your monsters through positive experiences, events, and valued behavior patterns. The reason that you want to build this wall is because we know that positive experiences in life summon our inner fairies (positive emotions) to come out. Without our fairies, our monsters get louder and hungrier which might resemble an emotional explosion like yelling or some of us just explode covertly, which might look like not expressing anything and instead “shutting down.”
How to build positive emotions NOW:
1. Do at least ONE pleasant thing a day that evokes your fairies (i.e., enjoyment, pleasure, serenity, calmness, love, joy, pride, or self-confidence).
a. Note: You can start off by making a list of activities that elicit positive emotions (ex. Cooking, listening to music, hanging out with friends…etc)
2. Use problem-solving skills when you have an inflexible schedule, financial strain, or many demands that might get in the way of you integrating positive experiences in your everyday life.
a. Note: Planning positive experiences in your schedule ahead of time can help make this less stressful in the moment.
3. Stick to your plan even when your monsters are out and you don’t feel like doing it.
a. Note: It can be really hard to summon your fairies when your monsters are creeping out and we know that summoning those fairies in those moments are that much more important.
SKILL 2: Build Mastery
When we are building mastery, we are strengthening our sense of competence and confidence so that we are less impacted by unwanted emotions when they try to creep in. The goal is to engage in activities that are difficult AND possible to achieve. If you engage in activities that are too easy or too difficult then you’ll give your monsters confidence rather than yourself.
How to build mastery NOW:
1. Do at least ONE activity a day to build a sense of accomplishment.
a. Note: This will look different for everyone. For me, cooking a new recipe makes me feel like I’m unstoppable.
2. Plan for Success, NOT failure.
a. Note: This is not a competition. It always feels better to raise your expectations because you aimed too low than to lower your expectations. For example, if exercising gives you a sense of accomplishment, then you might start off by walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes with an incline rather than running 5 miles.
3. Gradually Increase difficulty over time.
SKILL 3: Cope Ahead
Although we might be shocked when we accidentally summon our monsters, sometimes we can anticipate them coming before the situation even occurs. When we are “coping ahead,” we are figuring out what situations are likely to summon our unwanted emotions or cause a problem and then planning ahead for how to effectively cope with expected difficulties.
How to cope ahead:
1. Describe a problem situation that you are worried about coping with well (emotions? urges?)
a. Example: Talking with your partner about saving money – emotions that come up might be fear and anger; urges might be yelling or shutting down.
2. Decide what coping or problem-solving skills you want to use in the situation. Be specific.
a. Note: You can google “DBT skills” or look at past blog posts for ideas on what you might need. Reminder: DBT skills are divided into mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness skills.
3. Imagine yourself in the situation in your mind; in the present NOT in the future. Our brain does not know the difference when we imagine it in our brain versus when we do it in real life.
4. Rehearse in your mind what you would do to cope effectively (including thoughts, actions, and phrasing words with how will say it).
5. Practice relaxation after rehearsing.
6. REPEAT steps 3-5 until you feel comfortable to enter the situation in real life.
SKILL 4: PLEASE
Just like your body is an armor to protect all your organs inside of you, PLEASE skills protect you and your loved ones from your monsters. Therefore, when we don’t take care of our body, our monsters become hungrier and scarier with little protection to contain them. These skills help us maintain our body’s health so that our monsters don’t grow stronger than us. Let’s set ourselves up for success! Below are the different factors our body needs us to maintain, so that we are less prone to distress and more prone to success:
1. Treating PhysicaL illness
a. Note: When we are sick, it is harder to contain our monsters so the healthier you are the better you can control your emotions.
2. Balance Eating
a. Note: The snickers commercial is right…well kinda. Eating foods that make us feel good as well as not eating too much or too little can give us more control over our monsters.
3. Avoid mood-Altering substances
a. Note: Alcohol and drugs can lower our resistance to unwanted emotions. Yes, that means caffeine too…however we are not perfect so let’s at least aim for moderation!
4. Balance Sleep
a. Note: Everyone’s sleep schedule is different; however, we want to aim for 7-9 hours a night and be consistent! No, you are NOT ok with less than 7 hours of sleep a night even if you think you are.
5. Get Exercise
a. Note: As much as it hurts me to say this….we have to exercise. When consistently done, aerobic exercise can serve as an antidepressant. Also, you can kill two birds with one stone as exercising may build mastery for you too. For those who feel triggered by the word “exercise,” consider the word “movement” instead and try stretching or a neighborhood walk.
Don’t let your monsters control you this Halloween and every day!