Being emotionally vulnerable can be an uncomfortable feeling. We may sometimes feel sensitive, emotionally charged, or on edge. These can lead to negative coping skills, feeling overwhelmed by negative emotions, or reacting impulsively. Fortunately, the DBT PLEASE skills are here to help reduce that emotional vulnerability. Addressing your basic needs and leading a balanced lifestyle can help you maintain emotional stability during times of stress. Here’s how these skills work:
What are PLEASE Skills in DBT?
In dialectic behavioral therapy or DBT, there are certain skills that individuals learn in order to improve their quality of life. One of those skills is emotion regulation, which allows us to live more balanced lives. A way to teach this is by using the DBT PLEASE skills. These techniques allow patients or clients to learn how to take care of their body’s most basic physical needs.
It can be easy to neglect or overlook our physical needs, but once they are taken care of, it becomes easier to regulate our emotions and make healthier decisions. PLEASE is an acronym that serves as a reminder of the different aspects of taking care of oneself. Learning what this acronym stands for and how to implement it in your life can help you become healthier and happier overall. It can also help you improve your interpersonal effectiveness, which allows you to have more fulfilling and meaningful relationships.
Here are the PLEASE skills in DBT and what they stand for:
PL: Treat Physical Illness
Studies have shown that there is a strong link between physical and mental health [*]. If you are physically unwell, then it can make decision-making and emotional regulation much more difficult. Treating any physical ailments is the first priority in taking care of yourself.
E: Balance Your Eating
Eating a balanced diet is an essential part of the PLEASE skill. When you provide your body with the nourishment that it needs, it becomes easier to cope and regulate with stressful situations. Balancing your eating does not necessarily mean going on an extremely strict meal plan all at once. Starting with small and manageable steps is the key. This will also make your diet more sustainable and easier to adhere to.
A: Avoid Mind-Altering Substances
Avoiding the use of mind-altering substances is important for good health and emotional regulation, especially for people with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. Such substances include alcohol, caffeine nicotine, and illegal drugs. These mind-altering substances can make it difficult to cope effectively, so it is best to avoid them and stick to the medications prescribed by your doctor.
S: Get Enough Sleep
An irregular sleep cycle can affect your health negatively. Some people may be lacking in sleep while others sleep excessively — both can throw your physical and mental health off-balance. Finding a healthy balance is essential to give your mind the rest it needs to regulate emotions properly.
E: Get Regular Exercise
Research shows that getting regular exercise can lead to physical and mental health benefits, such as regulating sleep patterns, treating underlying physical illnesses, and improving mood [*]. Regular exercise is different for everyone. For some people, taking regular walks or playing with their kids outdoors is enough. Others may want to do activities such as running marathons or weightlifting. Remember that it is always best to consult your physician or coach before changing your exercise regimen.
How Do PLEASE Skills Help Regulate Emotions?
The PLEASE skills help regulate emotions by ensuring that one’s basic needs are met. Our emotions can be intense or unpredictable when we feel unwell, hungry, or if we are lacking sleep. Satisfying these core needs can make us feel satisfied, allowing us to make decisions with a clearer mind and keep our emotions at bay.
Examples of Using the PLEASE Skills
- PL: Treat Physical Illness. Taking care of your physical illness may be as simple as taking your prescribed medications and vitamins every day. Sometimes, you might have to visit a physician to run some tests and discuss your symptoms. It can also help to schedule routine check-ups to ensure you are in good health.
- E: Eat Balanced Meals. Eating a balanced diet does not have to be complicated. You can start by portioning your meals so that they aren’t too large or too small. Next, try incorporating more fruits and vegetables during and in between meals. It also helps to reduce the amount of high-fat and sugary foods you consume daily.
- A: Avoid Mood Altering Drugs. Apart from following your doctor’s instructions for prescribed medication, you can practice drinking alcohol in moderation. It is best not to take any illegal drugs as this can have a negative effect on your health, particularly feeling emotionally vulnerable.
- S: Get Enough Sleep. Practicing good sleep hygiene can greatly increase your chances of having a good night’s sleep. To get 8 to 10 hours of quality sleep, try going offline an hour before bedtime, shutting the lights off completely, and setting a consistent bedtime.
- E: Get Regular Exercise. Aim to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily. This can be as simple as taking a walk or doing yoga at home. Exercise releases endorphins, which are mood-boosting chemicals, and provides you with a healthy outlet to release any pent-up energy or frustration.
The Bottom Line
The PLEASE skills under DBT are extremely valuable to learn. These skills serve as a reminder to take care of our physical health first in order to maintain our mental health. If you want to learn more about this skill and other DBT skills, check out our DBT worksheets.
- Ohrnberger J, Fichera E, Sutton M. The relationship between physical and mental health: A mediation analysis. December 2017.
- Smith P, Merwin R. The Role of Exercise in Management of Mental Health Disorders: An Integrative Review. 30 November 2020.