Surviving an Emotional Storm Sandy | Borderline Personality Disorder & Intense Emotions

While our friends and family on the east coast brace for the effects of Hurricane Sandy, many of us all over the world are coping with emotional / mental health storms within.

For many months, I’ve been writing about an upcoming work-related meeting. It’s finally happening this Wednesday.  Thinking about all of the hours between now and then (and how I’d get through them) was causing me to feel very overwhelmed and anxious.

I realized I needed to get skillful in order to avoid any unnecessary suffering and not make matters worse.

During IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) today, I realized that instead of looking at all of the time between now and when the meeting commences, I literally need to take it hour by hour.  (There have been times when my anxiety was so severe, I had to take it minute by minute. Can you relate?)

In addition to living in the present and not projecting into the future with speculation and worrying, I will:

  • Keep in mind the serenity prayer: “God help me to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Prayer, in whatever form it comes for you, if at all, is listed under the “Improve the Moment” skills of Distress Tolerance — crisis survival strategies to help you tolerate painful moments when there is nothing you can do to make things better right away.
  • Take my meds as prescribed:  I rarely take the Ativan (anti-anxiety medication) that is prescribed for me, other than at bedtime. I am allowed to take it additional times during the day for severe anxiety or panic.  If my appetite continues to be affected or the agitation increases, I will take this as prescribed to help me.  Taking medication falls under the “PLEASE” skills in the Emotion Regulation section of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy – a proven treatment for the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder).  
  • Look at medicine as food: Whether I feel like it or not, I will eat regularly and (for the most part) healthfully.  Balanced eating, regularly and mindfully, and avoiding foods that make us overly emotional (such as caffeine, or lots of sugar) is also part of the PLEASE skill set.
  • Calm my nervous system.  HERE are some of the CDs I like to listen to to help accomplish this. They will definitely be on rotation tonight and tomorrow. 
  • Do something nice for myself… x3: I plan on allowing myself to get in my pajamas early, watching some of my favorite programs, and taking a relaxing shower.  These are all part of the “Self-Soothing” skills, under the crisis survival strategies of Distress Tolerance.
  • Do something nice for someone else: I haven’t decided what this will look like yet, though I anticipate it will be in the form of supporting others who are hurting, via my Twitter presence. I will also prepare a nice meal for my significant other.
What are some skills you can use to help you ride out your emotional storm?  In what ways can you take better care of YOU and take a step back so as to prevent making matters any worse than they are?
If you’re doing well right now, what type of Emotional Storm survival kit could you put together to help you in times of trouble?  I have this 9-1-1 Emergency DBT skills kit standing by. 
Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

P.S. If you are having stress, depression, or anxiety from the actual Hurricane Sandy or other natural disaster, SAMHSA is there to help support you. Thank you Amanda Smith of Hope for BPD for sharing this resource. 
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