DBT Skills to Manage anxiety: 9 Quick Tips and a Review of the Four Components | Kristen McClure Therapist

NINE  Quick DBT skills to manage anxiety

  1. Label your emotions – say to yourself,” I notice that I feel lots of emotions.”

  If you’re feeling anxious, say to yourself, “I notice my anxious thoughts are rapidly coming into my head.”

2.Practice letting go of anxious thoughts like “something bad is going to happen” or “everyone is looking at me.”

3.Practice with your judgments. Judgments of others and ourselves are a part of our dialogue. It can cause anxiety and distress. Often we judge ourselves for feeling anxious. Notice when you are judging yourself for feeling anxious. Instead, work on replacing this with self-compassion. Learn more about this here.

4.Multitasking.  That’s a sure way to spike your anxiety AND decrease the quality of whatever you are doing. Practice doing one thing at a time, one mindfully.
Learn more about that here.

5.Are there situations in your life with friends, partners, coworkers, or others you need to address that you are not dealing with? Asking for what you need and communicating what you want respectively rather than avoiding essential conversations can be an essential thing you can do to decrease your anxiety.

6.Work on accepting instead of fighting your anxiety. Learn more about that here.

7.Are you caring for your body by getting proper exercise, nutrition, and sleep? Not doing these things makes you more vulnerable to anxiety and other negative emotions.

8.Find and identify activities in your day to day life that give you a sense of mastery and help increase your sense of positive emotions.

9.DBT uses self-soothing techniques to help you when you are distressed. Make a list of ways to use your five senses to calm yourself (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch). When you are anxious and need to soothe, pull out that list and care for yourself by doing one of those things.

DBT SKills to manage anxiety: Emotions

Marsha Linehan defined emotions are brief and complex involuntary patterns Responses to internal and external stimuli ( 1993).

People who have anxiety and other mental health disorders have problems regulated emotions.

Emotional regulation is the process of the events that happen inside and outside of us.

  • How we attend to the events.
  • Appraise the events
  • Think about the experiences
  • Process act and react.
  • Emotions are then increased, decreased, experienced, and expressed.

People who have anxiety may misperceive cues internally and externally as threatening, and avoid them, become aggressive or freeze. Emotional regulation is a core problem with pressure. People with social anxiety, panic disorder, specific phobias, general anxiety disorder and OCD, all show emotional dysregulation is at the core of their conditions.

Additionally, intolerance of uncertainty is also a core feature of anxiety you can read about. The skills of distress tolerance lend themselves easily to targeting this central feature of anxiety: mindfulness skills.

As we’ve learned on other pages of this website on boundaries and
assertiveness, interpersonal effectiveness is a critical feature that decreases anxiety.

DBT has an entire unit devoted to this as well. DBT skills are often complex, and they can take a long time to learn and practice. I have taken this page to outline them for you and link to some more comprehensive pages.

Marsha Linehan is a hero to many women. She developed DBT by studying with Buddhism with a monk. She was inspired to do so because of discrimination in the psychiatric community against highly suicidal and emotional women who were not getting better. When she returned and developed her theories, they have met resistance from the male-dominated psychological society. Now, DBT is widely recognized as effective for treating a variety of issues.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of therapy that emphasizes dialectical thinking and mindfulness. It helps people to learn to accept their feelings and thoughts but take action anyway. A bit part of DBT focuses on emotional regulation, which is why it is so helpful with anxiety. DBT teaches you to look at why you engage in behaviors that don’t help you and make different choices by teaching you skills.

DBT programs are very comprehensive and include:.

  • Skills training (in groups)
  • Individual therapy
  • Telephonic coaching
  • Homework and Practice to acquire new skills

The four DBT skills to manage  anxiety are Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, Interpersonal Effectiveness:

DBT skill for anxiety 1

DBT Skills to manage anxiety 1. Mindfulness. Learning how to be present and aware of the current moment

Composed of the what:

Just Practice  (observing)

and(  describing)

and ( participating)

and how

( one mindfully)  giving your full presence without going into the past or future


Mindfulness is beneficial for anxiety because it teaches you to detach from your thoughts, sensations, and memories that you may be fused with and reactive to.

DBT skills for anxiety 2

DBT skills to manage anxiety 2.Distress Tolerance

 Developing skills to tolerate discomfort

Some of my clients have very intense anxiety that they feel unable to manage. The DBT skills of distress tolerance offer a lot of ideas for interventions that they find helpful.


This part of DBT focuses on



Improve the Moment

Focusing on the pros and cons


DBT skills for anxiety 3

DBT Skills to manage anxiety 3. Emotional Regulation. Negotiating the landscape of regulating your emotions

Emotional Regulation in DBT focuses on helping people better understand their emotions by helping them name and label their feelings. Key concepts DBT teaches are that some feelings are primary and secondary; it’s essential to accept your feelings and judgment. Everyone suffers from negative emotions, and you don’t have to be controlled by them.

The Emotional regulation component of DBT also teaches how certain states of your body make you more vulnerable to dysregulation through the acronym PLEASE MASTER. These states include things like not sleeping, or eating well. DBT also encourages you to plan to do things that you enjoy or that helps you to feel mastery.

The third part of Emotional regulation reducing emotional suffering. Two DBT skills are included here: 
Letting go
 is practicing mindfulness skills to allow the state, label it, and diffuse it. Learn more about it here

2. Taking the opposite action  includes shifting out of your current state deliberately. For example, if you have been crying and sad for hours, you may choose to shift into a happy state. Learn about this here.

DBT Skills for anxiety 4 :

DBT Skills to manage anxiety 4. Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

means the ability to interact with other people. Asking for what you need and behaving effectively and assertively. According to DBT there are three kinds of effectiveness. Objectivive, Self-respect, and relationship

Essentially this component of DBT helps you to develop good relationships with others and communicate your needs in a way that helps you feel good about yourself and say no when you need to.

Objective effectiveness

‘Objective effectiveness’ Goal = something tangible. I want something specific from my friend or partner.

DBT uses acronyms to help people remember each skill. In this case, it’s DEARMAN.

Describe: Describe the situation with no judgment

Express: Express your feelings to the other person to let them know how you feel

Assert: Assert your wishes and let them know what you do and do not want

Reinforce: Reinforcing why you desire a particular outcome and reward people responding positively to your request.

Mindful: Be mindful of now and focus on what you are doing now

Appear: Appear confident maintain eye contact

Negotiate: Being ready to get into negotiations, be ready to collaborate and validate every one has rights


Start at

Relationship Effectiveness

For relationship effectiveness, the acronym used in DBT is

Relationship effectiveness Conflict and positive relationship is a goal

GIV E : 

Gentle: Approach in gentle non-threatening manner

Interested: Act interested without judgment or interruption

Validate: validate and acknowledge what the other person says

Easy: Adopt a positive, light-hearted manner and tone and try to smile


Self Respective Effectiveness

Lastly, the acronym used for self-respect effectiveness in DBT interpersonal effectiveness module is 



F air: Be fair to yourself

Apologize: Apologize less

Stick: Stick to your values, don’t compromise

Truthful: Be Truthful and done manipulate


Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.

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