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ACCEPTS: 7 Ways to Manage Big Feelings

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

In the moments where your emotions are running high, you need practical tips on what to do to feel better and get out of the negative mindset.

DBT Provides a handy acronym for us to remember what to do to manage our big negative feelings.

Have you ever caught yourself in a bad mood trying to make a good choice but not knowing what exactly that is? Or maybe struggling with anxious thoughts and needing a break, to get out of that rut? I certainly have. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy creator, Marsha Linehan put together an acronym for us to use in these moments: ACCEPTS.

Use them all, or use the one that you can do right now to feel better.

Activities - Do something that's engaging

This could be reading a book, writing in a journal, coloring in a book, doing homework or going for a run. Play your favorite video game, or plan your next vacation.

Contributing - Do something that gives to someone else

Write a letter to a friend, bake cookies for your neighbor, check in on your friends, etc. Get the energy pointed in a positive direction.

Comparisons - Think of something more distressing than now

Remember childbirth? How about that summer you broke your ankle or when you lost your favorite grandparent. That was worse than this? And you lived through it! You can do this too.

Emotions - Do something to create the opposite emotion

Feeling down? Watch a comedy. Feeling angry? Go for a walk or a run. Anxious? Do some yoga, meditation, or get a massage. Your body can't be anxious and relaxed at the same time.

Pushing Away - Use imagery to visualize yourself pushing the thoughts or feelings away.

Picture a box that you pack these things into, and put it into a closet. Write them down on paper, and put that paper in the back of your junk drawer. Tell yourself, "I can wait one hour to revisit this".

Thoughts - Use your thoughts to distract you to a neutral activity

Count backwards from 100 by 3s. Sing a song out loud. Count ceiling tiles or light bulbs (I use this one in the dentists office). Play the alphabet game: think of an animal that starts with the letter A, then B, etc.

Sensations - Find sensations to distract you

Take a cold shower, or hold an ice cube in your hand. Suck on sour candies. Smell your favorite candles, fabric softener, or perfume. Use a weighted blanket. Pet a soft animal.

Which skill will you be using more of?

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