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Distress tolerance is often conceptualized as “one’s ability to tolerate and withstand negative or uncomfortable emotional states.” Children’s capacity for distress tolerance is naturally lower than adults. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain is not yet fully formed until a person reaches age twenty-five, at the earliest. This is the area of the brain that reigns rational thought, impulse control, executive planning, problem solving, decision-making, and more. Since the pre-frontal cortex of young people is underdeveloped, adolescents innately rely on the amygdala. The amygdala is the area of the brain that governs one’s emotions, impulsivity, emotional behavior, and motivation responsible for emotions. Young people will be faced with varying levels of emotional distress daily, from minor irritations to high-stress situations. 

Distress Tolerance Skills

Learning distress tolerance skills can make a positive difference in a child’s ability to handle difficult emotions. A young person’s distress tolerance can be cultivated and enhanced through a variety of techniques. Distress tolerance is one of the four modules of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and there are several skills taught as a part of this module. Some of them include:

  1. TIPP skills: TIPP is an acronym for Temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing, and Paired muscle relaxation. TIPP skills quickly calm the limbic system and lower the state of emotional arousal. 
  2. Square breathing: is a guided breathing exercise that can be used by anyone to manage stress and anxiety, as it has been shown to relax the nervous system. Try it out by following these simple directions:
    • Inhale to a count of 4
    • Hold your breath to a count of 4
    • Exhale to a count of 4
    • Hold it for a count of 4
  3. Weigh the pros and cons: noting the pros and cons can help an adolescent pause and take a moment to think about a situation and the subsequent steps.
  4. Failing forward: Failing forward eliminates the fear of failure by recognizing and celebrating it as an opportunity for growth. It allows a child to see that failure does not imply that they have failed as a person, and simultaneously reinforces the notion that growth is always possible.
  5. STOP skill: STOP is an acronym for Stop, Take a step back, Observe, and Proceed mindfully, which can help an child avoid engaging in impulsive behavior.
  6. Radical acceptance: is making a conscious choice to accept the state of things as they are, without working to change them. 
  7. Distraction: in moments of intense overwhelm, temporary distractions (e.g., calling a friend, reading a book, watching TV, etc.) can provide brief relief from the distressing situation. 
  8. IMPROVE skills: the acronym IMPROVE stands for: Imagery, Meaning, Prayer, Relaxation, One thing in the moment, Vacation, and Encouragement, all of which can help with improving the moment. 

Learning distress tolerance techniques, and practicing those techniques, can help improve distress tolerance over time.

Treatment In Calabasas

Calabasas is a city in California. It is a well-known suburb of Los Angeles, located west of the San Fernando Valley and north of the Santa Monica Mountains. Over the past decade, the city of Calabasas has grown in its reputation for luxury as well as for privacy which makes it a hidden gem for residential living for society’s elite, and one of the most desirable destinations in Los Angeles County. It is also home to a plethora of highly qualified mental health clinicians providing an array of therapeutic services and treatment options. 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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