How to support your emotions during stressful times using Dialectical Behavioural Therapy



A beautiful strategy called IMPROVE the moment is a DBT designed to help you get through emotionally trying situations. They're used to help people deal with difficult emotions during stressful times.

Let’s start at the beginning…

What is Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

In short, it is a modified type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) designed to teach people how to live and remain in the moment. It teaches us to create and develop ways to deal with emotions, stress and help support our relationships. We love this write up about DBT from verywell.

How do we do it in everyday life?

A beautiful strategy called ‘IMPROVE the moment’ is a DBT designed to help you get through emotionally trying situations. They're used to help people deal with difficult emotions during stressful times. We use IMPROVE to replace unpleasant feelings and emotions with positive actions to support and IMPROVE the moment and situation.

Arianna Pienaar - IMPROVE

I - Imagery 

Close your eyes, and picture yourself interacting with the (new) world around you. You are not your circumstances. You are you. And because of that, your circumstances can feel different.

M - Meaning

This one's pretty self-explanatory. The best way to find meaning in a situation is to try and answer some of these questions:

  • What lessons can I take away from this?

  • How will things be different in the future?

  • How much does this matter in the grand scheme of things?

P - Practice/Pray

… no religion required! Investing time in "prayer" simply means connecting to a force or a power beyond you. This could be God, the Universe, Source, Mamma Nature... Anything!

And working on a "practice" simply means doing anything that helps fill you with a sense of purpose - something that brings you joy or makes you feel connected to yourself and the world around you.

R - Relaxation 

There are many ways to bring a sense of relaxation to a situation or emotion. Perhaps it’s a hot bath with your favourite essential oils, deep breaths, a walk in the park or at the beach. Whatever you find relaxing if you can make a little time for your favourite relaxation practice, do it. 

You will get into a better frame of mind to deal with whatever is challenging you. It’ll also aid in resisting behaviours and activities that can make it worse.

O - One thing in the moment.

In times of trouble, your mind tends to run to the past (did I really give that my best effort?) or the future (can I back this up?). Bring yourself back to the present moment by connecting your senses with one thing in your environment.

  • Squeeze your hands together

  • Hum (hmmmmmm)

  • Stand up and press your feet in the ground

  • Take a cold or hot shower or bath

V - Vacation

Whether or not you're able to take a real vacation any time soon, it doesn't matter - that's what staycations are for!

The goal of your vacation, staycation, daydreaming, or whatever you want to call it, is not to run away from your problems or move to a deserted island. Instead, take a break from the situation you're struggling with. 

  • Picture your "happy place"

  • Engage a different sense

  • Phone a friend

  • Take yourself out of the situation

  • Listen to your favourite song

  • Go outside

  • Do a downward dog (and quite literally flip your perspective)

E - Encouragement 

Do you have any insights? Or words of encouragement/wisdom that you can draw on? More so to encourage the positive potential of determination, without domination.

If you find this challenging, you can add Just a few drops of an essential oil that can elicit profound emotional responses to help you let go of burdens, find comfort and encouragement, or inspire you to dream with passion again.

We love Noom and its extensive resources about ways to support weight loss from a therapeutic perspective instead of it just being about ‘shredding / deprivation’.

As you can see, IMPROVE provides us with systematic ways to support ourselves and others when life throws us difficult moments, situations and emotions. The more we practice these skills, the more natural they become and feel, so when the curveballs come at us, we are armed with tools at the moment to improve the situation at hand.

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