Exercise 5. Distress Tolerance Skills

These are skills and strategies to help get you to navigate highly emotional situations. These skills won’t solve the problem but they can help you manage intense feelings so that you can return to the problem and manage it more effectively.


  • Do something for someone else. What would that look like for you?
  • Take my attention off myself. When might this be helpful?
  • Think of someone I care about. Who might that be?
  • Distract myself with tasks and chores. What are some examples that would work for you?
  • Distract myself with counting my breaths. Slow down and count ten breaths right now. What does that feel like?
  • What else may work for you?

Self-Soothing via the Senses

Do something that soothes any one of your five senses

  • Vision - paintings, pictures that are soothing to look at
  • Smell - scented candles, bakery, coffee shop, flowers
  • Hearing - soothing music, books on tape, nature, white noise, waterfall
  • Taste - tea/coffee, ice cube, ice cream, gum, favorite meal
  • Touch - hot shower, bubble bath, massage, your favorite shirt

Reference: Skills for Tolerating Distress (from Linehan, M. DBT Skills. 2nd edition, 2014)