Let’s get back to the basics: PLEASE!

by Casie Hall, CRC, LCMHC, LCAS
To start, an aside: I could expand (complete with drawings, analogies, metaphors, video, demos, etc.) on every element of this skill, however, that most certainly would not be basic, would it? 🙂 See below for the bare-bones version of the PLEASE skill. It’s an introduction to the skill and will give you a starting point for exploring balance in your own system.
 
It’s January 30th, 2020.
We are almost one month into the New Year.
Whether you made a resolution or you didn’t – Are still on track, or aren’t –
This info is for YOU!
 
We all know that a quality house starts with a strong, stable foundation. This is true for us and our human systems, too. To enjoy a sense of emotional stability, wellness, and balance, we must reorient to basic elements that support our greatest levels of functioning.
 
The PLEASE skill: an acronym for a strong foundation
 
PL: Treat Physical Illness
Ever been sick and felt like the worst version of yourself? That’s because it’s virtually impossible to bring your “A Game” to life when you’re not feeling well. When you are battling physical illness, cognitive and physical resources that are usually dedicated to executive functions (planning, delayed gratification, etc.) and higher level emotions like *patience*, are re-purposed to focusing on survival. Recovering. Getting back to normal. It is critical that when you are sick, you take care of your body:
Eat what your body needs, get to the doctor, follow doctor’s advice, take medications as prescribed, stay hydrated, rest as needed. Ideally, you’re taking a sick day, calling out of work, and tuning into your system’s needs. For most of us, this kind of self care this isn’t always possible. When it isn’t, do the best you can, and also, remain mindful that the physical illness you are battling is stripping you of resources you would otherwise have access to. Be patient with yourself and recognize that you might notice your emotions flare up or shut down faster & with less predictability than usual.
 
E: Eating
Balance eating. Try not to eat too much or too little. Choose foods that are helpful for you. If your system doesn’t feel good when you drink milk, decrease or eliminate your milk intake. Balance the intake of the different food groups. Try to avoid restricting or fully eliminating any single group & aim more for a balance of healthful, helpful choices. Consult with your physician or dietitian to determine and consider any food allergies or sensitivities and modify your diet accordingly.
 
A: Avoid Mood Altering Substances
Avoid using non-prescribed drugs and alcohol. Mood altering substances do exactly that; they *alter*. This alteration, which depends on a variety of biological and environmental factors, can make us particularly vulnerable to over, and/or under, reacting to situations that we would likely observe as benign if in a wiser/clearer mind. If you are using mood altering substances, be aware of your increased vulnerability to dysregulated emotions and distorted perception(s). If you’ve never experienced this personally, you’ve most certainly witnessed it… #notpretty.
 
S: Sleep
Balance sleep. Try not to sleep too much or too little. For most adults, a range of 7-9 hours is recommended. If you notice that you feel groggy and tired, even after getting 9 hours of sleep, consider that 9 hours may be too much for your system. Experiment with getting closer to 7 hours per night, and vice versa. Practice helpful sleep hygiene. Consider the sensory experience of your bedroom: darkness level, white noise vs. no noise, comfort of your bed, type of pillow(s) you’re using, texture of your sheets & bedding, room temperature, comfort of your PJs, soothing smells, and so on. Change and shift accordingly until your environment is conducive to sleep. And, as much as you’re able, turn down with a routine. Your system will learn to recognize the routine and associate these behaviors with preparing for sleep.
 
E: Exercise
Exercise does not have to be the whole “change-out-and-drive-to-the-gym-for-an-hour” scenario. Believing it does is exactly the thing that will keep you from doing it! We assume it’s too much, or we don’t have time. Exercise does not have to be complicated or regimented. At the most basic level, exercise is moving and engaging your body, raising that heart rate a bit. Don’t overthink it. Humans were designed to move. Stretch. Lengthen. Shift from states of rest to arousal. So, standing up and sitting down in your office chair 100 times. Doing as many push-ups as you can until your arms feel like jelly. Good ol’ fashioned jumping jacks. Pulling up a 5-10 minute yoga practice on YouTube. Any and/or all of the above count! When we move our bodies, we release energy. When we release energy we REGULATE. Physically and emotionally. We are slower to react, more grounded, and increasingly mindful. All of which work to decrease our emotional vulnerability to #allthethings.
 
The PLEASE skill is one designed to decrease emotional vulnerability, increasing stability and feelings of wellness. This allows us to engage with the world intentionally – by choice – and not by emotional chance. By paying attention and being responsive to each element of PLEASE, you are doing your due diligence to ensure your system (YOU!) remains cared for and supported- New Year’s resolution or not!
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The PLEASE skill is presented in the Emotion Regulation section of the DBT® Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition by Dr. Marsha Linehan and was modified slightly for the purpose of this blog.

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