I am a student, but not in the traditional sense. There was a time when I enjoyed school, cared about my grades, and was proud of my mascot, but that all changed about a year ago. I have trauma. I have anxiety. I have depression. My emotions are too much for me to bear sometimes. I started cutting. I started thinking about ending the pain.
With all of this, I am still a student. I am fighting through, learning skills, and sitting in my discomfort.
Each morning as I enter my school, I take a deep breath, and I do an emotion scan. I listen to my thoughts and feelings. I notice my behaviors. Am I ok today? I describe my feelings, but I do not judge them. I am learning that they are just feelings. I accept them. It’s alright to have emotions. Ok, I am ready to start the day.
At the beginning of each class, I begin with a mindfulness practice to help me clear my brain and focus on the lecture. If I don’t do this, I start to think about how Jessica is dating my ex-boyfriend now, how the soccer coach chose Allison as captain instead of me, or how much my mom and my dad yelled at each other late last night. If I think about things like these, my mind spirals, and I become overwhelmed. I can’t concentrate. My emotions consume me.
So instead, I take another deep breath. I place my feet flat on the floor. As I breathe in and out, I take a moment to observe how my body feels. Are there any places I feel as though I’m holding tension? I try to relax in these areas. Then with a few more deep breaths, I look around the room. There are posters on the walls. I note the one with an ocean scene on it. If my mind starts to spiral, I will look at that poster to help ground myself. Ok, I am ready to start class.
Interpersonal Effectiveness: GIVE:
When I sit down at the lunch table, I smile at my friends. My relationship with them is often strained. I realize that I focus on myself and my problems frequently instead of asking about them. At lunch, I try to become a better friend. I use a skill I know called GIVE.
G- be Gentle
I- act Interested
E- use Easy Manner
I give my friends a chance to talk. I try to smile when they smile. I make eye contact when they are talking to me. I respond to the excitement with excitement and to sadness with empathy. I am trying to make it easy to be with me. I am trying to be a better friend.
Distress Tolerence: TIPP
In Spanish class, I become overwhelmed frequently. Language does not come easily to me. I do not like the teacher. I sit in the back of the classroom to avoid being called on. It doesn’t work. When I get my tenses confused, the teacher makes a rude comment about me. I get so angry and embarrassed so quickly I cannot even see straight. I leave the classroom, but I know I must calm down. I sprint to the furthest bathroom. I don’t care if I get in trouble for running in the hall. I splash cold water on my face and the back of my neck. I’m starting to feel better. As I walk back to class, I pace my breathing to the rhythm of my footsteps. I squeeze my muscles and allow them to relax. When I make it back to Spanish class, I am calm and ready to try again.
I- Intense Exercise
P- Paced Breathing
P- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Emotional Regulation: ABC PLEASE:
Leaving school for the day feels like an accomplishment. I’ve learned that to feel better in school, I have to take care of myself outside of school. I continue to practice soccer because exercise makes me feel good and a good player. I like my teammates. Sometimes I even like Allison. We laugh together. I drink lots of water. I eat healthy meals. I try to get a good night sleep. Ok, I’m ready to wake up and start the whole day again.
A- Accumulating Positive Experiences
B- Building Mastery
C- Cope Ahead
PL- treat Physical Illness
E- balance Eating
A- Avoid Mood-Altering Drugs
S- balance Sleep
E- get Exercise
Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills can be used in the classroom both individually and as part of a system every day. Here are some other resources that could be helpful for learning how to integrate DBT skills into a classroom setting.