DBT Skills Collection

Emergency Skills

I'm packing my emergency toolbox...

Most people who are suffering from mental illness know the term "Skill" - which means finding an alternative course of action for a non-positive behavior.

So-called DBT skill lists are used particularly frequently for anxiety disorders, flashbacks, but also for borderline personality disorders (BPD). The DBT skills keep you away from doing something stupid to yourself.

These skills are helpful when you may have some kind of self-harming behavior or feel an emotional crisis (or close before). DBT skills can help to lower your stress level, to treat yourself and your body with care, and to learn capabilities and achieve a positive approach to negative behavior.

Please note, some skills may not work for you. The key to success is the practice of DBT skills! And, find your personal skills.

The below outlines DBT Skills and little helpers for your emergency toolbox clustered by stress-level. Note, the indicated stress level is based on our personal experience and is only a general indication for you.

Stress-level: +70-100%

  • Smelling ammonia sticks
  • Put on pain-relieving patches/ heat plaster
  • Suck/chew sour or spicy candies
  • Boxing into a punching bag, punching ball, in the pillow, etc.
  • Suck/chew Center shocks long and slowly
  • Press a cool pack/ ice bag (or frozen vegetables) - in a towel - on your neck
  • Put pressure on acupressure points/ pain points/ emergency point
  • Eat extreme spicy food - Depending on your personal taste and tolerance, you can chew chili peppers, eat spicy gummi bears, chili chocolate, etc:
    • Habanero chili
    • (green) horseradish
    • Sambal Olek
    • Eat/ smell hot spices
    • Eat hot mustard
    • Drink tabasco
    • Eat wasabi
  • Apply Finalgon ointment/ Horse heat ointment/ Elacur Hot Ointment to your skin and apply gauze bandages with fixing strips or wrap in cling film for an even stronger effect
  • Put an elastic band around your wrist and let it snap
  • Do intensive rope skipping
  • Do Intensive push-ups / sit-ups / burpees / star jumps
  • Chewing gums with an intense flavor
  • Put cherry stones or small pebbles into your shoes and go for a walk
  • Smell lavender or drink lavender syrup
  • Put vitamin or effervescent tablets directly into the mouth and suck them
  • Do toe stand as long as you can
  • Drink lemon juice concentrate

Stress-level: +30-70%

  • "Koush-Ball" a kind of super-soft hedgehog ball (you can get it in toy shops)
  • "Kinder JOY Eggs"
  • Listen to mindfulness meditation, YouTube or TED talk
  • Use acupressure ring to your skin, fingers, legs, toes, etc.
  • Tearing up old catalogs or telephone books
  • Squeeze anti-stress balls
  • Read encouraging / supporting posts or quotes
  • Scream loudly from the bottom of your heart (in the woods, underwater, into a cushion or in a closed room to the wall, etc.)
  • Name 5 things you hear - 4 things you see - 3 things you feel
  • Special tissues (e.g. with funny designs or smell)
  • Crawl under your blanket and simulate mother's stomach
  • Feel brushes (rough or soft) to sensitize the skin
  • Wear a clown's nose
  • Prepare your pro and contra list for the situation
  • Feel a spelt or cherry pit pillow
  • Smell aromatic oils
  • Melt ice cubes in your mouth
  • Holding ice cubes in your hand
  • Suck ice cubes
  • Take a relaxing foam bath with fragrant additives
  • Tage a relaxing bubble bath
  • Running up and down floors in the stairwell
  • Jump around
  • Play with a fidget spinner
  • Suck Fisherman's Friends or other cough drops in different flavors
  • Write down your thoughts
  • Write poems/texts about your emotional situation
  • Talk to a close friend, close family member, carer, therapist/telephone contact, ...
  • Massage your skin/ old scars
  • Chopping wood, breaking branches
  • Roll the hedgehog ball on your skin
  • Chewing fresh ginger
  • Put Japanese mint oil, tiger balm, tea tree oil on your skin and smell
  • Go jogging (and run away from the thought)
  • Juggling balls or juggling scarves
  • Take a cold shower or let cold water flow over your hands and forearms
  • Warm up the cherry pit cushion and place on the skin
  • Stick plasters on your skin and rip them off again
  • Play small games of dexterity and/or concentration
  • Play with small cuddly toys/ soft toys
  • Play with a clay ball
  • Play with dough
  • Colouring in creative blocks
  • Place the cool pack on the skin (wrapped in a towel)
  • Listen to music or your favorite songs loudly
  • Put on a lavender relaxation mask
  • Learn exotic capitals, poems or anything else by heart
  • Lipsticks with different tastes
  • Balloons (inflate until it bursts; to inflate as a breathing exercise, play with the balloon as a mindfulness exercise)
  • Painting mandalas
  • Knead the massage ball
  • Play with a metal hedgehog ball, other hard hedgehog balls
  • Poking the skin with a folded out paper clip
  • Making music (e.g. playing guitar, piano, flute, singing, drums, etc.)
  • Lay down on a nail board
  • Smell perfume (perfume tests) or favorite scent
  • Solve a riddle
  • Roll the soles of your feet over a massage stick
  • Play with soap bubbles
  • Play musical box
  • Do sports (e.g. jogging, walking, cycling, skating, swimming, dancing, riding, weight training, boxing...).
  • Search around you as fast as possible 5-times the color red, 5-times the color blue, 5-times the color yellow, etc.
  • Change your viewing direction: look up if you are looking at the floor
  • Change your body position: stand up and walk around when you are sitting in the moment
  • Knot a cord in a complicated way and unknot it again later
  • Use a vibrator or massager
  • Writing angry letters and tearing/burning them
  • Count backward from 300 in steps of 7
  • Read a note from a close person

Stress-level: 0-30%

  • Read a good book
  • Smell and feel a refreshing towel
  • Look at photos
  • Smell coffee beans or espresso beans
  • Wet face cold
  • Hear and smell thunderstorms
  • Standing in the summer rain (as an alternative, stand under the warm shower)
  • Cooking, searching, planning and shopping for recipes
  • Listen to nature sounds
  • Maintain social contacts (SMS, chat, telephone, social media, going out)
  • Go for a walk
Important Disclaimer:
This is an information website and is maintained and supported by affected persons, volunteers and helpers. Under no circumstances does the information replace professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. We do not offer medical, legal or psychological advice. Our compilations and information are based on our own experience, personal assessments and Internet research. The information & skills presented are intended to help you and support you in your everyday high-stress situations or dangerous situations. And, to encourage you - you are not alone!
The contents of stress-killers.com cannot and may not be used to make diagnoses or start treatments on your own.
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