As someone with BPD, you’ve probably spent a lot of time-fighting your impulses and emotions, so acceptance can be a tough thing to wrap your mind around. But accepting your emotions doesn’t mean approving of them or resigning yourself to suffering. All it means is that you stop trying to fight, avoid, suppress, or deny what you’re feeling. Giving yourself permission to have these feelings can take away a lot of their power.
Try to simply experience your feelings without judgment or criticism. Let go of the past and the future and focus exclusively on the present moment. Mindfulness techniques can be very effective in this regard.
- Start by observing your emotions, as if from the outside.
- Watch as they come and go (it may help to think of them as waves).
- Focus in on the physical sensations that accompany your emotions.
- Tell yourself that you accept what you’re feeling right now.
- Remind yourself that just because you’re feeling something doesn’t mean it’s reality.
Do something that stimulates one or more of your senses
Engaging your sense is one of the quickest and easiest ways to quickly self-soothe. You will need to experiment to find out which sensory-based stimulation works best for you. You’ll also need different strategies for different moods. What may help when you’re angry or agitated is very different from what may help when you’re numb or depressed. Here are some ideas to get started:
If you’re not feeling enough, try running cold or hot (but not scalding hot) water over your hands; hold a piece of ice; or grip an object or the edge of a piece of furniture as tightly as you can. If you’re feeling too much, and need to calm down, try taking a hot bath or shower; snuggling under the bed covers, or cuddling with a pet.
If you’re feeling empty and numb, try sucking on strong-flavoured mints or candies, or slowly eat something with an intense flavour, such as salt-and-vinegar chips. If you want to calm down, try something soothing such as hot tea or soup.
Light a candle, smell the flowers, try aromatherapy, spritz your favourite perfume, or whip up something in the kitchen that smells good. You may find that you respond best to strong smells, such as citrus, spices, and incense.
Focus on an image that captures your attention. This can be something in your immediate environment (a great view, a beautiful flower arrangement, a favourite painting or photo) or something in your imagination that you visualize.
Try listening to loud music, ringing a buzzer, or blowing a whistle when you need a jolt. To calm down, turn on soothing music or listen to the soothing sounds of nature, such as wind, birds, or the ocean. A sound machine works well if you can’t hear the real thing.
Reduce your emotional vulnerability
You’re more likely to experience negative emotions when you’re run down and under stress. That’s why it’s very important to take care of your physical and mental well-being. This includes:
- Avoiding mood-altering drugs
- Eating a balanced, nutritious diet
- Getting plenty of quality sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Take steps to minimize stress
In addition to looking after your body and mind, you can also reduce your vulnerability to negative emotions by practising relaxation techniques. Do check out helpguide.org for even more self-help advice for living with BPD.