DBT for Parents: PLEASE Skills for Emotional Regulation
Today we're talking about DBT Skills and how to use them as it relates to parenthood. Last time we covered Building Mastery. We're expanding on reducing vulnerability and focusing on PLEASE Skills. The part of therapy I was most resistant to was "moderation". Even after a few months in my DBT program, I hated the idea. I actually said during intake "I will listen to everything you teach me, but if you tell me to practice moderation, I will ignore you." (I was kind of a brat at 22!). Well, needless to say if you read this blog, I became a convert. I immediately balked when my therapist presented PLEASE skills to me. Wasn't this the moderation I was talking about? My therapist helped me see that I didn't necessarily have to stop experiencing extremes, I just had to understand the effect not paying attention to biofeedback had on my coping skills. This is the key to PLEASE Skills, and is important as parents. You don't have to be getting all of these things all of the time. You just have to be aware that they affect your functioning. Once you're aware of how missing those affects you, you can adjust your behavior and expectations. The PLEASE pnemonic reminds us of the things that directly effect our coping skills:P and L = Physical iLlness (yes, it's a stretch, bratty 22-year-old me side-eyed this hard): not being in good healthE = Eating the right amount (not too much, not too little) at the right intervalsA = Altering drugsS = Sleep E = Exercise: a little each day. We recently had a string of illness, and it was easily among my most difficult times as a mother. For about a month and a half, it was sickness after sickness. We had 2 ER visits for bad coughs and 2 clinic visits for pink eye. All of which put a wrench in our holiday plans, contributing to my low mood. To top that off, my usual relief people were also sick, and for 2 weeks preschool was closed, so I was momming and caretaking while sick and with almost no break. And the weather was unusually cold and snowy, so we couldn't just go to the park! It was all the hard parts of parenting all at once with no reprieve. I, luckily, just found out about a drop in daycare a few blocks from home. If this or something like it happens again, we will use that! Eating can be a challenge for parents of newborns,especially in the early days. I had such problems breastfeeding when Breccan was just born that, between nursing, supplementing, pumping, and washing bottles and pump parts, I had barely any time to eat. Luckily this was (relatively) short-lived. Personally, I find I actually eat better now that I need to feed Breccan. I just eat a grown up sized portion of whatever he eats. PBJ sandwiches are a pretty filling and complete meal! My days using what comes to mind when you hear "altering drugs" are long over, and most parents are in a similar boat. However, it's important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and caffeine is a stimulant. Personally, putting the two of them together is a recipe for a panic attack, so I try and be mindful of my intake. And we heard a few weeks ago from Jean from Unpickled about how the drink to unwind at the end of the evening can get out of hand fast! If you're experiencing postpartum depression, alcohol can have even more effect. As much as we parents joke about drinking all the coffee and all the wine, it really is better to keep them in moderation. As parents to young children, the most obvious thing we don't get the right amount of is sleep. Even parents of teenagers may lose hours of sleep, either out at kids functions and doing chores later or letting worry keep you up. Your body physically changes when you don't get enough sleep. It is important to not expect yourself to be functioning optimally and to make allowances and adjustments for those impairments. Exercise can be hard to come by too. I have found it really hard to fit in the amount of yoga I'd like to be doing. I'm not a morning person, and Olin is still cosleeping. By the time the end of the day rolls around, I'm exhausted, and if I do have the motivation for yoga, I usually opt for a Yin practice. Two days a week, I get at least 5k of walking in when I walk Breccan to and from preschool. I also try and get the dog a good 60 minute walk once a week. PLEASE Skills boil down to basic self care. If you aren't at least paying attention to them, you aren't addressing your basic physical needs. I try and aim to keep on top of 4 of them a day. There are days you fail all of them though, because when you're sick, you often don't get enough sleep, you may not feel like eating, you definitely aren't exercising, and between medications and the caffeine you need to be a parent while sick you may have a number of altering drugs in your system! On those days, it's important to go easy on yourself. Practice mindfulness to your emotions, and be aware when your kids are pushing the buttons that challenge you even on a regular day.