Quick Impulse Control/Distress-Tolerance Strategies

When you feel overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, or when you have an urge to engage in self-harm behaviors, you can use the following strategies:

 

  • Grounding: the idea is to focus all your attention on one thing or one activity to distract yourself from unhealthy behaviors or distressing thoughts:
    • Mentally describe an object in as much detail as possible (e.g., shape, texture, color, size, etc.)
    • Name five things you see, four things/people you hear, three things you taste, two things you smell, etc.
    • Walking or eating, or doing any activity mindfully (being fully present and aware of what we are doing in a non-judgmental way)
  • Exercise; going for a walk
  • Talking to a friend
  • Listening to music
  • Drawing
  • Reading
  • Watching a movie
  • Cooking/baking
  • Any activity that you enjoy and that gives you a sense of accomplishment

 

Developing a Coping Card: when you are depressed, anxious, or feel an intense urge to engage in unhealthy/self-harm behaviors, you may not be able to remember helpful distress-tolerance or impulse control skills. It is therefore a good idea to make a detailed list of strategies or activities that work for you (e.g., mindfulness meditation, going for a walk, listening to music, placing an ice cube on your forehead to effectively lower your temperature when angry, etc.) including the names and telephone numbers of supportive people. You can take a photo of this list and keep it on your phone for easy access.