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Distress Tolerance Skills: How to Improve?

If you’ve ever had a difficult day, you know that it can be really hard to get through. This is especially true if your kids are having trouble at school or their friends are fighting over something important.

You want to help them feel better, but how? In this article, we’ll discuss how you can teach your child self-soothing skills and other ways of dealing with challenging emotions in order to improve their overall well-being.

What are Distress Tolerance Skills?

Distress tolerance skills are a set of skills that help you tolerate distress, pain, and negative emotions. Distress tolerance requires you to:

  • Tolerate the discomfort of aversive emotions
  • Tolerate negative thoughts
  • Tolerate adverse events or situations

The first step in learning distress tolerance is becoming aware of your limits.

Distress tolerance skills will help you identify and accept your current level of distress so that you can take action to address it before it gets worse.


Self-soothing is a skill that can help you calm down when you’re upset, or even make you feel better about yourself and the situation. If someone is upsetting you and causing distress, their behavior may be causing some physical or emotional discomfort for them as well—for example, if they’re being rude to others in the room (which makes them feel physically uncomfortable), or if those around them are getting angry at them (causing emotional distress).

Self-soothing allows these feelings to be expressed without escalating into an episode of anger or anxiety.

By focusing on your breathing and calming down through self-soothing techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, yoga poses like Corpse Pose (or “Down Dog”) and Savasana (which means “corpse” because it looks like a corpse lying flat) or listening to music that soothes your mind while relaxing every muscle in your body except those needed for sitting still at work/school, etc.,  you can reduce stress levels within seconds!

This will not only help everyone else around but also give yourself time away from whatever situation caused this reaction in order not get stuck there forever.”

Pros and Cons


  • You can learn to respond differently to stressful situations. If you’re the type of person who gets upset or angry when things aren’t going your way, then this is a great skill for you.
  • With practice, you’ll be able to calm down and deal with stressful situations more effectively in the future.
  • It requires no special equipment or materials—you don’t need any special tools or gadgets to use this method of relaxation and stress relief (though some people find it helpful to use them).


  • The cons are pretty obvious here! You can’t control if something happens outside of your comfort zone; therefore, there’s no guarantee that what works for one person won’t work for another—and vice versa.
  • With therapy or medication sometimes comes side effects like drowsiness/sleepiness which might make it difficult for those taking anti-depressants during their treatment plan due lack strength enough power themselves through whatever obstacle they face along life journey.”

Improving the moment

  • Focus on the present.
  • Don’t worry about the past or future, because they are not in your control. If you’re worried about something that happened a long time ago and hasn’t happened yet, then you’re focusing on the wrong things! Instead of worrying about anything that may or may not happen in the future, focuses on what is happening right now—and enjoy it!
  • Don’t compare yourself with others at all costs; instead, focus on how well YOU are doing compared to THEM (which can be difficult). If someone else has done something better than YOURSELF – then there’s no need for jealousy because no one deserves praise more than anyone else does!

Thinking of others

When you are feeling overwhelmed by your distress, it can be helpful to consider the impact that your actions will have on your well-being.

Consider how you can think of others and their feelings when making decisions related to stress management. Consider what they might do in response if they were experiencing similar feelings as yourself; this may help ensure that these situations don’t escalate out of control as quickly.

You should also consider how your actions will affect yourself: Will they lead to more positive outcomes than negative ones? If so, then it is likely worth considering them despite any negative consequences (such as missing out on opportunities).

How to improve Distress Tolerance Skills?

There are a number of ways you can use to teach your students these skills.

  • Handouts and worksheets: You can print out handouts about the concepts of distress tolerance, including definitions, examples of when it might occur, and ways to reduce it. You could also create blank worksheets for students to fill out as part of their homework assignment or classroom lesson plan.
  • Audio recordings: Make an audio recording that explains what each skill is and how it works (i.e., “The first step in teaching distress tolerance is knowing where your child’s stress point lies.”) Record yourself explaining each concept so that students will have a visual representation of what you’re saying when they listen back later on in class or during therapy sessions with their therapist/counselor at home.
  • Use books such as The Everything Parenting Book by John Gray; A Child’s Garden Of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson; Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs And Wear Cows by Peter Singer; The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey; etc.* Group therapy sessions: Have group discussions about different topics related specifically towards helping children learn how to cope better instead of being overwhelmed with emotionality due to having too much going on around them all at once.* Individual therapy sessions

Handouts and worksheets

Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat is a great story for teaching children about dealing with their emotions. It’s also a great way to practice hand-eye coordination and reading skills, which are important for kids and adults!

The first thing you’ll want to do when teaching this activity is print out your worksheet on cardstock or paper so that it can be cut out by each child as they go through the process of completing it. You might also consider using colored pencils instead of markers if you have access to them; these tend not only to make it easier for students who may have difficulty seeing but also provide added visual interest when compared to black-and-white drawings (which tend not only to lack contrast but also don’t always look very good).

Audio recordings

Audio recordings can be used in the car, while you are washing the dishes, or while you are exercising. They can also be listened to at any time of day and night.

When trying to fall asleep, an audio recording of relaxing sounds such as ocean waves or rain will help relax your mind. This is especially true if it’s a recording that lulls you into sleep rather than keeping you awake or alerting others around you when they should be sleeping too (like white noise). You might also try listening while driving so that the sounds of traffic don’t keep distracting you from falling asleep!


  • The Happiness Trap, by Russ Harris
  • The Mindful Way Through Depression, by Mark Williams and John Teasdale
  • The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Depression, by Christopher Willard

These three books will help you develop your distress tolerance skills:

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris is a good place to start if you’re new to mindfulness. It provides guidance on how you can use mindfulness in your day-to-day life to reduce stress and improve mental health. There’s also an emphasis on how mindfulness practices can help with anxiety disorders like depression or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Group therapy

Group therapy is a good way to learn new skills. It’s also an excellent way to meet people and make friends, which can be helpful when you’re feeling alone or worried about your mental health.

Group therapy allows you to practice coping strategies as part of a group setting, where other people will offer their advice on how best to deal with anxiety symptoms. This can help you become more confident in your ability to handle stressful situations on your own—and it may even make dealing with such things easier in the long run!

Individual therapy sessions

Individual therapy sessions are an excellent way to learn how to cope with stress, manage your emotions and behavior, think more effectively, and physically feel better.

  • Individual therapy sessions help you learn how to handle the stressors in your life that are causing you distress.
  • The therapist will often work with you on homework assignments before and after each session to help ensure that the material learned is being applied in real-life situations outside of treatment.

Always try to improve how you react in challenging situations.

You can always try to improve how you react in challenging situations.

There are many things that can be done to improve your distress tolerance skills, such as:

  • Learning to recognize and avoid situations that cause stress or anxiety. For example, if you know that a situation is likely to cause distress for you, then avoid it altogether!
  • Practicing deep breathing exercises when experiencing an uncomfortable emotional state (such as anger or frustration). This will help relax your body while also reducing some of the physical symptoms associated with feeling stressed out like sweating or feeling lightheaded/hyperventilating etc., which also makes it easier for someone else who may need support from us during stressful times such as emergencies situations where there’s no time left before something bad happens!


The most important thing is to keep learning and practicing these skills. The more you do, the more likely you are to be able to deal with stressful situations in a healthier way.

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