DBT Skills for COVID-19, Part 1: Isolation

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken so many aspects of our lives. We are being forced to live our lives very differently right now and it makes sense that a lot of different intense emotions would come up. In this five-part series, I will discuss five of the most common ways I’ve seen COVID-19 shake people’s lives and the DBT skills that could be used to cope.

A workstation with a laptop open to an online social platform, an iPad, a cell phone, and a watchPart 1: Isolation due to social distancing

With current guidance on social distancing and stay at home orders, we are feeling isolated and lonelier than ever. Many of us feel that we have lost a vital sense of connection to our friends, loved ones, and colleagues. The following skills might help to regain a sense of connection and ease the pain of loneliness:

  • Accumulate Positives

Now is the time to engage in pleasant events.  If you have the DBT handouts and worksheets, check out the Pleasant Events Schedule in the Emotion Regulation module and try some of the options. If not, think about some of the pleasant things you like to do and see if you can find a way to do them virtually with friends. Technology is a huge resource to help us continue to be social. Maybe share a meal or a fun chat with friends over a webcam platform like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts. You could play a game online with friends or with total strangers. AA and NA meetings are available online and over the phone.

  • Mindfully Participate in those pleasant events!

    When you engage in pleasant events, throw yourself in 100%! Act spontaneously from your Wise Mind and don’t judge yourself or others! Do your best to be unmindful of worries and put your full focus on what you’re doing.

  • Build Mastery with technology

    Person on cell phone and using DBT skills to keep in contact with others through Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and other social platforms instead of feeling isolatedDoes all this virtual stuff sound good, if only you knew how to use it?  Time to build mastery with technology!  Many virtual platforms like those mentioned above have tutorials, but if those aren’t helpful, there are often videos available on YouTube.  You can also call a friend or loved one who is more familiar and have them walk you through it.

  • Cope Ahead for difficult times

    If there are some days coming up when it will be particularly emotionally difficult to be away from others, try coping ahead for those.  Anticipate what will be difficult about those times, write down the DBT skills that will help you be most skillful, and then imagine using those skills while facing that situation in your mind.  Don’t forget to relax after!

  • Figure Out Interpersonal Goals

    Is it very important to you to maintain relationships during this time?  If so, use the DBT Problem-Solving skill to figure out how to attend to relationships during this time.

  • Willingness

All of the skills mentioned are going to take a good dose of willingness.  Attend to any willfulness popping up (are you throwing up your hands? Wanting to give up?) and practice willingness.  Be willing to do just what is needed in the situation, without throwing up your hands or having to control everything.

We have covered six ways to cope with isolation and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Maintaining social connection is SO important right now.  We have to think a bit outside of the box these days, and it’s not the same as being in the physical presence of our loved ones, but connecting with friends and loved ones is still possible! And remember, you can always just pick up the phone and call or send a text.

Lastly, social isolation can sometimes lead us to consider long-term solutions that interfere with building a life worth living.  Please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org if you need help.

Want to learn more about DBT skills? Click here to learn about the DBT skills training groups we offer at the Cincinnati Center for DBT.

Check back soon to see how to use skills to cope with other aspects of the impact of COVID-19!