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5 amazingly simple ways to calm down that actually work

Everyone has those moments when you feel out of control. It’s how you deal with it that counts.

In this week’s Great Mental Health Experiment videoI try out some legit ways to focus your mind when you’re freaking out. 

The fancy word for this distress tolerance – matching our intense feelings with intense experiences in safe, controlled ways. This helps give your brain a break from your emotions so it can do its job and get us back to balance. These skills are especially helpful if you want to do something unhelpful, like self harm or punch someone.

Hat tip to Marsha Linehan & DBT for the inspiration for this vid.


Ever seen one of those lists with all the things you can do to help your mental health? I’m testing those theories! Follow The Great Mental Health Experiment for a new video every Tuesday.

5 Amazingly Simple Distress Tolerance Skills

1. Squeeze Ice

Grab a cube of ice from the freezer and give it a squeeze. Notice the sensation. Describe what you feel.

2. Suck On A Lemon

Over your emotions? Say “suck a lemon” to them by literally sucking a lemon. The sour sensation acts as a distraction from your worrying thoughts. This can also be a good reminder of the idea “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Things may not be the best right now, but you can make the best out of it. 

3. Taste Hot Sauce

Got some tabasco sauce in the cupboard? Take a spoonful and feel the heat!

4. Tip The Temperature Of Your Face

Fill a bowl with cold water, dunk your head in up to your temples, and hold your breathe for 30-60 seconds. This automatically switches on the dive reflex, which slows your heart rate and makes your body shut down non-essential functions like emotions. Does dunking your head into a bowl of cold water freak you out? Then try covering your forehead and temples with an ice-pack. Note: this skill is a bad idea if you have a heart condition.

5. Take A Cold Shower

Having a cold shower makes you more alert, relieves stress, and produces endorphins, the bodies natural pain killer. So go on, twist the shower handle all the way to blue and jump in!

Here’s some other sensations that might work for you:

  • Take a warm shower to relax yourself
  • Suck sour candy
  • Listen to fast music
  • Use aromatherapy oils (like lavender or eucalyptus)
  • Squeeze a rubber ball hard
  • Stomp your feet on the ground
  • Focus on how it feels to breathe
One thing to remember: it’s good to use a distress tolerance skill that is opposite to the feeling of your emotion. For example, if you feel cold when you’re distressed, a warm shower is probably better than a cold one! It’s different for everyone, so figure out what works for you.

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