woman meditating and practicing please skill

Understanding the PLEASE Skill from DBT

In Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), patients learn to regulate emotions in order to live more balanced lives. One of the many tools that DBT provides is the PLEASE skill. With this skill, patients learn to take care of the body’s most basic physical needs.

When these needs are taken care of, people are better able to make healthy behavioral decisions and regulate their emotions. PLEASE is an acronym that helps patients remember different aspects of taking care of oneself. Learning each part of this acronym and applying the skill can help you live a happier life, even if you are not actively in DBT.

Treat Physical Illness

Whether it’s a minor cold or a chronic condition, physical illness can take a toll on your mental health too. Many studies have found a profound link between physical and mental health. That’s why it’s vital to take care of any physical illness as soon as you can.

In some cases, you may need to ensure you’re taking medications as prescribed. Other times, people need to see doctors and undergo testing in order to discover an underlying condition. When you find and treat physical illness, you can free your mind to make sound emotional and behavioral decisions.

(Note: the information in this article is general and not specific to your unique situation. You should always consult your primary care provider or another qualified physician before making changes to your exercise routine, diet, or other things that affect your physical health.)

Balance Your Eating

A balanced diet gives you the nutrition and energy you need to have a healthy life, including regulating emotions and coping with stress. Unfortunately, some mental illnesses make it difficult for people to eat regular meals, much less balanced meals. The PLEASE skill reminds people to prioritize healthy eating as part of their mental health treatment plan.

Balanced eating does not mean sticking to a strict diet. In fact, fad diets can make some people struggle with more mental health symptoms. Instead, try making small steps toward a healthier diet. For some people the first step may be ensuring they eat enough meals throughout the day. Other small steps include adding a multivitamin, eating out less, or adding one more serving of fruit daily.

Avoid Mind-Altering Substances

Certain substances can change your mental state, which then leaves you vulnerable to emotional disturbances and anxiety. It’s important for anyone with a mental illness to avoid substances such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Prescription drugs for other people

The only mind-altering substance that someone with a mental health disorder should consume are medications that their providers prescribe. If you have difficulty giving up another substance, therapy may help.

Get Healthy Sleep

Getting the right amount of sleep can help you improve your physical and mental health. Unfortunately, many mental health disorders disrupt sleep. For example, anxiety disorders can make it difficult to get enough sleep, but people with depression may sleep more than what is healthy.

When you prioritize getting enough restful sleep, you can better regulate your mood and reverse the whole cycle. Practicing good sleep hygiene can help, including:

  • Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes
  • Avoiding television and smartphones for 30 minutes prior to bedtime
  • Turning your bedroom into the perfect sleeping environment
  • Waking up and going to bed at the same time each day, even on weekends
  • Exposing yourself to some sunlight during waking hours

Additionally, other parts of the PLEASE skill can improve your sleep quality. While caffeine and nicotine can disrupt sleep, avoiding mind-altering substances can help you sleep. The last letter can improve sleep as well.

Enjoy Regular Exercise

Getting regular exercise can have profound benefits for your mental and physical health. Research shows that exercise can help treat certain underlying conditions, improve sleep quality, and regulate mood.

It’s important to note that healthy exercise is different for everyone. For some people, going for a daily walk can be plenty. Others may benefit more from heavy exercises, such as long-distance running or heavy weightlifting. It’s important to consult a doctor before starting or changing an exercise routine.

The PLEASE skill is an excellent way to remind yourself to take care of your mental health by improving your physical health. If you want to learn more about this or any other DBT skill, book an appointment with one of our licensed therapists.

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