30 Oct Preparing for a Pandemic Winter with this Simple Skill Set
Winter in the Northeast can be challenging on a good day. The colder temperatures, fewer daylight hours, and wet weather can take a toll on our emotions. It’s easy to go into hibernation mode and lose steam during the long winter months. We may have the urge to spend more time sleeping, binge-watching Netflix, or eating our favorite comfort foods.
Making things all the more difficult, this year we are entering the winter months after an already challenging year. Many people are grieving the loss of loved ones due to COVID-19 or missing their old way of life and now with the additional possibility of a second wave looming, many are fearing the colder climates.
So what can we do to prepare for what’s ahead? Let’s take a look at an easy skill from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
DBT, developed by Marsha Linehan, uses the acronym “ABC PLEASE” as a way to increase positive emotions and reduce vulnerability to emotional reactivity and behaviors that don’t serve us.
ABC PLEASE stands for:
- Accumulating positive experiences
- Build mastery
- Cope ahead of time with emotional situations
- (treat) PhysicaL illness
- (balance) Eating
- Avoid mood-altering drugs
- (balance) Sleep
- (get) Exercise
A – Accumulating Positive Experiences:
This can be looked at in both the short term and long term. In the short term, we want to increase the amount of enjoyable activities we do each day. This can be as simple as doing one small thing you enjoy daily, like listening to your favorite podcast or calling a friend.
To accumulate positive experiences in the long term, start by writing down a few goals. Then, further break down the goal by listing smaller steps that move you closer towards achieving your goal. Pleasant activities lead to positive emotions and can significantly boost our mood in the short and long term.
B – Build Mastery:
Try to do one thing each day that makes you feel accomplished. You want to challenge yourself a little here. Think about your to-do list items or a new recipe you wanted to try–maybe you finally finish that art project or puzzle you’ve been putting off.
The key here is to find something that is difficult but possible. Plan for success and start small. You can gradually increase the difficulty of the task over time. Completing activities that make us feel capable and in control increase our self-esteem and confidence levels.
Over time, accomplishing tasks that build mastery helps us shift into a positive “can do” mindset.
C – Cope Ahead of Time with Emotional Situations:
Create a plan ahead of time to help cope with a potentially challenging event or day.
Do you have a difficult homework assignment or work deadline coming up? If so, take a minute to reflect on the emotions you might feel in that moment. After naming the emotions, consider what will help you cope with the emotion.
If you know you might feel nervous or anxious, try doing something beforehand that helps calm your nerves. This might mean listening to relaxing music the morning of or planning to exercise beforehand.
Rehearse the situation going well in your mind. Picture yourself overcoming the situation even if complications arise. Afterwards, practice a relaxation technique.
P L – PhysicaL Illness:
Take care of your body, and see a doctor if you are feeling sick.
E – Balance Eating:
Observe how certain foods affect you positively or negatively. Notice which foods give you sustained energy and which might boost your energy but lead you to crash shortly afterwards.
A – Avoid mood-altering drugs:
Stay away from non-prescribed medications and alcohol as these can negatively affect mood.
S – Balance Sleep:
Although the colder weather may have us wanting to oversleep, try and get the amount of sleep that helps you feel rested. It’s best to maintain a regular schedule, going to bed and getting up around the same time each day.
E – Get Exercise:
Do something to get some movement in your body each day. Start small and continue to build on it.
With so much uncertainty ahead of us, it’s important to focus on the things that are within our control. The ABC skills help us to improve our mood and feel more positive emotions throughout our day.
Think of the PLEASE skills as the non-negotiables that we as humans need to regulate our emotions.
Incorporating both types of skills into your routine will not only increase your mood, but will also prepare you to better deal with some of the harsh realities we might face this winter.
One key takeaway is to start practicing these skills before you actually need them. That way when things get difficult you already have these stop gaps as part of your routine.
Authored by: Jennifer Jamgochian, LMSW