ACCEPTS is a multifaceted crisis survival skill under the Distress Tolerance umbrella of the 4 DBT modules. The ACCEPTS skill is used to distract from a stressful or crisis situation temporarily so that the user can get some space and come back to it when they are ready to effectively handle it. This skill is important to take a time out and cool down so that you can deal with the situation when you are calmer and better equipped to stay in your wise mind.
ACCEPTS is an acronym to help you remember the possible ways to distract in a stressful situation. These are:
Activities: Do something that will help distract you and keep your body and mind busy. Try doing a hobby, exercising, cleaning, going out into the community, calling a friend, going for a walk, playing a sport, writing, listening to music, playing a video game – anything that works for you.
Contributing: Give of yourself by volunteering your time or doing something nice for someone else. Go to your local food bank, homeless shelter, halfway house, animal shelter, or retirement home. Pay it forward and do random acts of kindness without expecting anything in return.
Comparisons: Compare yourself to others who have it harder than you. In many situations we think “no one can possibly have it harder than I do right now.” In those situations it’s important to think outside of ourselves and look to others who are dealing with much more difficult situations or who have much less than we do. Try watching the news, going to an ER waiting room, or looking up some facts or pictures about developing nations or terminal illnesses.
Emotion: Do something that produces opposite emotions to what you were feeling. Try watching a funny show or YouTube video, listen to emotional music, or read emotional books. Click here for more on Opposite to Emotion Action.
Pushing away: Push the situation and thoughts away by building an imaginary wall between you and it. Or imagine putting the situation, thoughts, or emotions into a box and putting them on the shelf to deal with later. Come back later when you are ready to deal with it.
Thoughts: Distract yourself with happy memories, read, do a sudoku or crossword puzzle, count colors in a picture or tiles on the floor, or watch TV. Anything to fill your mind and distract you from your thoughts.
Sensations: Do something (safe) that elicits an intense sensation. Try squeezing a piece of ice in your hand, snapping a rubber band on your wrist, taking a hot shower, having sex, listening to loud music, or sucking on a lemon.
Masha Linehan suggests moving from one distracting task to the next if one is not working for you. Work through these until you find something that adequately distracts you. Then, once you have established your calm composure and wise mind you will be able to tackle that problem situation. Go get ‘em tiger!