Distress tolerance tips


I use to squirm at the idea of self-soothing / being kind to myself / self-compassion/ self-care. I now realise how absolutely vital it is for me to do this. When I neglect this my early warning signs start to show up and its usually not long before I spiral. I can go from 0 – 100 at times, so staying on top of this is essential for me to keep safe and stay well.

One of the things I notice is that I can get sensory-overload if there is a lot going on around me. Taking myself off to a quiet space where the lights are dimmed low or off really helps me to reset my coping ability. Nature also helps this, for me, being near water or around trees or an open space really helps.

Saying ‘No’

Saying no to things that I do not want to do has also become key. I have a tendency to be a ‘people pleaser’ at the expense of my own happiness and health. I have started to recognise what is draining for me and now I am much more boundary minded about what I can and cannot commit too. Saying ‘no’ takes some getting use to and I am still very much on the journey with it. Work in progress for sure!

Distress tolerance

It is also essential for me to have grounding techniques for when I experience distress and/or dissociation. I use different grounding items to help me when I am struggling. I have my very own, very personal life box / distress tolerance box. In this I have things that help the different senses. I love the smell of lavender, this really calms me down and works quite quickly for me. I have photos of my family and friends, inspirational messages, a favourite poem, sensory toys included a weighted ball, sensory/therapy putty, my favourite sweets (Strawbs”) and my favourite perfume. I also love a calm tea and a hot bath with lavender oil. I find lavender the most soothing and it makes your skin super soft too!

Some of the other patients I have met along the way also share that a weighted blanket helps them.

I find heat helps me and I have an electric hot water bottle that is easy and safe to use, also hospital friendly as it doesn’t require using any water.

Distraction and mindfulness

I personally love the a-z category game, naming different animals, places, or other objects. Other games include counting back from 100 in 3’s; naming 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste.

I also love to play cards, or play ‘Banagrams’. It activates the front part of your brain which helps to ground you and bring you to the present.

Mindful colouring is also great. I love the adult colouring books. A friend of mine loves the adult colour by numbers.


I often wake up from night terrors / nightmares and am so frightened and disorientated at the time. I have a lava lamp that I leave on at night so if I do wake from a bad dream I am quickly orientated and grounded by the sensory sight of the lava lamp with its beautiful changing colours.

Sensory over-load / Sensory sensitive

PTSD can cause hyper-vigilance. I think this is one of the reasons why I get so drained so quickly by busy places. I sometimes get overwhelmed by busy superstores. Some superstores offer sensory sensitive times for shopping. It is worth checking your local superstore website for information for if and when they do.


It is so important to recognise when you are in crisis and ensuring you get the help and support you need to survive this, until you can live and thrive again. Sometimes just getting through minute by minute is all we can face when in a crisis and that’s OK. Just keep going, it will change, it will get better. Trust me, I have been in crisis more times than I can count and I have survived everyone. My track record is good and I am certain yours can be too.

Write a crisis plan and share it with your loved ones / close friends / support team / carers so they know what signs to look out for and give them steps for what to do to help you. Also state what isn’t helpful so they can avoid making things worse for you.

Write an advanced best wishes statement so people know what your preferences are. Include who to contact, who not to contact.

If you are already known to a mental health team then let them know what is going on for you and see if they can offer increased support. If things are really desperate go to A&E or call 999. Take grounding items with you, take something comforting, take a colouring book. A&E can be a tough place to be, so take things that will help you to stay as grounded as possible.

Know which charities are available to help too. Samaritans are wonderful, I have called them a few times and they have helped me come back from the brink each time. SAMARITANS 116 123.

Make sure you get with company and you are not alone. Don’t be ashamed, get the help you need. You can get through this. You are loved and the world needs you here!

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